“We are so many, the square is full: the rain hasn’t stopped us.” At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, as the rain falls heavier and heavier, Carla Nespolo proudly claims the event as a success. Before her is an overflowing Piazza del Popolo, while all the politicians of the Democratic Party who came just for an electoral photo-op have already vanished backstage.
The 23 organizations, with CGIL and ARCI at the head, which launched the initiative “Never again fascism!” and which have managed to stage an event that was in no way easy, due to the time that has already passed since the events in Macerata, are not hiding their disappointment toward those who have only come briefly to be seen by the cameras.
At the start of the march, in Piazza Esedra at 1:30, there is no one from the PD to be seen. The unusual hour, especially for Rome, and the many buses which got stopped by police at the freeway exits (“They confiscated the wine from the Veronese, imagine how angry they’ll be when they get here!” someone jokes) have resulted in thin crowds at the start—not a very reassuring sight.
But with every passing minute, the ranks of the marchers swell more and more, and many are breathing a sigh of relief. The FIOM-CGIL’s renowned security team has cordoned off the high officials and the town mayors, among whom Matteo Renzi might also make an appearance—“They’re going to have to defend even him” is the remark that best describes the attitude of most people there. Leading the procession are the ANPI, ARCI and the unions.
Alongside Carla Nespolo we find Susanna Camusso, and the former President of the ANPI, Carlo Smuraglia; on her other side marches the UIL leader, Carmelo Barbagallo, while Annamaria Furlan, the Secretary-General of CISL, had to stay home with a fever, and is being replaced in the march by the confederal secretary, Andrea Cucello.
Behind them are marching the territorial branches of the ANPI, with many three-colored scarves at the necks of the few surviving members of the anti-Fascist Resistance. One of them is Giuseppe from Pontedera, 84 years old, who at the time was only “a child, but I remember the fascists and having to flee into the mountains with the whole family,” and who today feels that “to stop the fascist threat, we must act immediately.” He is proud to point out that “Pontedera was the first municipality to ban the neo-Fascists from using the public spaces.”
Romolo, an 89-year-old from Rome, is more pessimistic: “Fascism can come back, because we haven’t erased it completely, we even tolerated the MSI.” Beside him we find John, 85 years old, who misses “the first Republic—at least the level of the politicians was high there.” Romulus, in turn, concludes that, in fact, “the real risk is that the neo-Fascist movements might merge with the political parties: the Lega and the 5 Star Movement.”
The most beautiful moment of the march happens when children suddenly make their appearance. They are former students of the Di Donato Manin dell’Esquilino primary school, one of the most multi-ethnic schools in Rome. Accompanied by many mothers, the boys are carrying a banner that, even in these dark weeks, gives us hope for the future: “They are learning together—all children, all citizens,” all the while singing the words of one of their idols, Ghali, the rapper of Tunisian origin who says in his most famous song, “Cara Italia” (“Dear Italy”): “Oh eh oh, quando mi dicon’: “Vai a casa”, Oh eh oh, rispondo: “Sono già qua”” (“Oh eh oh, when they say to me: ‘Go home,’ Oh eh oh, I answer: ‘I’m already here’”).
The two weeks that have passed since the attack in Macerata have allowed everyone to organize and use their imagination to best express themselves. The procession of the retirees from SPI CGIL is colorful, with hats featuring a play on Trump’s slogan: “Make Italy anti-fascist again,” and signs that are striking for their astute social commentary: “In the wars amongst the poor, the rich win,” “Let’s help them right here” (i.e. the refugees), “There is only one race – the human race,” and “The Italian flag belongs to everyone.”
Even the FP CGIL, the public sector workers’ union which has just gone through marathon negotiations for the latest renewal of the government worker contracts, has a banner specially made for the occasion, which renders the ‘FP’ (Funzione Pubblica – Public Sector Workers) in its acronym as “Funzione partigiana” (Partisan Workers).
Bringing up the rear of the procession is Aldo Tortorella from ARS, and the 23 associations are now marching along the winding street, in a festive mood which sits in sharp contrast with the weather.
At some point, the mayor of Macerata, Romano Carancini, shows up among the representatives of CGIL Marche. The controversy regarding his request to cancel the march that had initially been called by the ANPI and CGIL in his city seems now to be a thing of the past. However, many people have not forgotten his refusal to say “the F word”; for instance, Carla, a 40-year-old volunteer with Emergency, tells us: “The mayor has never had the courage to say that what Traini did was a Fascist act, and even if it is true that the city was afraid in those days, to demonstrate for anti-fascism is always right,” she tells us, and the disappointment can be heard in her tone.
The members of law enforcement are relaxed, observing the passing of the human convoy that is descending from the Pincian Hill to the Piazza del Popolo. Those who fanned the flames of conflict by announcing “a danger of clashes” must by now be sorely disappointed.
While the parade of politicians for the media is taking place behind the stage—installed with the usual impeccable level of organization by CGIL—the actor Giulio Scarpati is onstage, surrounded by around 20 youngsters, calling for “anti-fascist unity.” The letters from the partisans to their children are read out by high school girls from Rome.
Then, a video message is broadcast from Liliana Segre, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps recently awarded with the title of Senator for life, and her words fire up the square: “I am appealing to all, politicians and media workers, even if I don’t delude myself to think that they will listen to an old grandmother who has been through so much: do not divide human beings, do not offer up easy enemies on a silver platter for those who are afraid.” When it comes to what happened in Macerata, she calls it like it is: “Black people were hunted down in Macerata, and that has shown us the abyss that we are standing before.” One can only hope that this warning will be heeded, and not only by those who were there at the manifestation.
Carla Nespolo, another “first woman”—the first to be elected at the head of the ANPI—is the one to mark the end of the event with a heartfelt and passionate speech, which she gives while people are still arriving from the Pincian Hill in the pouring rain: “During these weeks, there have been too many silences. Fascism is the enemy of knowledge, it is the enemy of women. We make again our request for the immediate dissolution of neo-fascist organizations, applying Art. XII of the Constitution, which prohibits the recreation of the Fascist Party. The escalation of violence in recent weeks can also be traced to the delay in applying this provision. We will go on together, with the strength of our unity,” she concluded, and ended by singing “Bella Ciao” together with Adelmo Cervi, making the whole square dance and umbrellas rise high in the air.