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Reportage. Palestine is like a magnet, a vortex that attracts all those who revolve around it. ‘In Italy, in '45, we seized the right to liberate ourselves, but for the Palestinians it hasn't happened yet.’

Palestinian liberation at the front of the march

Lia is leaning against a curbstone at the entrance to Milan’s Piazza Duomo. She is watching the march go past, which is extremely long, and is applauding each Palestinian flag she sees. Around her neck is a scarf with the ANPI (Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d’Italia) insignia and a keffiyeh.

“I bought it years ago in Hebron, but until today I kept it in the drawer,” she tells us. “I used to come only with the ANPI insignia, but this time I wanted to bring it as well.”

The Palestinian issue took center stage in the Liberation Day march.

THE NEW MILAN

In Piazza Duomo, already by 1 p.m., Palestine flags were occupying the front rows in front of the stage. But they were everywhere. There was no section of the march – with the highest attendance in recent years by far – in which the ongoing massacre in Gaza was not referenced. It could be no other way. If, in the words of Primo Minelli, president of the antifascist standing committee organizing the march, the values of the Resistance “are the living flesh and unified cement of Italian society,” what is happening in the world in the here and now had to be centered. And so it was.

We see “Stop Gaza genocide” on a sign carried by a young man, 20 years old at most. Lia applauds: “He’s Milanese, that one,” she says. Second-generation Milanese, of course, like so many participants in the demonstration. Milan showed up on Thursday, which is not surprising. Milan is always there on April 25, because Liberation Day is in the DNA of any Milanese who is not a fascist.

But on Thursday, there was also a new Milan, that of the second generation, who took over a part of the procession and made it their own. Those who live in the city know them: they are the young men and women (especially women) from the Milanese suburbs, where they have been confined by gentrification. They wear keffiyehs, they listen to trap. And, from October 8 to today, they have been learning to make themselves visible. They have swelled the numbers of the pro-Palestine marches every Saturday for months now, and on Thursday they were at the march to celebrate a Liberation they experience as distant and to demand an end to a massacre they feel is near, all too near.

THE APRIL 25 PEOPLE

Alongside them, there were also the usual Milanese who show up every April 25, those who have always been there and will always be there. But now with an extra motivation. Because there was a reason that some of those who live every day on Milan’s streets were shouting “Israel – murderer!” at the passage of the Jewish Brigade: the end of the massacre in Gaza is a fundamental issue for many.

At San Babila, a small cordon of officers in riot gear is deployed to contain the protesters. A few dozen meters away, there is a banner with the Star of David and the words “Them too. 5,000 Zionists liberated Italy.” The pro-Zionist group is surrounded by a private security detail in red jackets and blue berets, the City Angels, looking very nervous.

Meanwhile, the DIGOS officers are keeping a constant eye on the group of protesters shouting slogans against genocide and Zionism. The marching band with the banner of the municipality of Milan passes by, with Mayor Giuseppe Sala right behind. The mayor marches by, gives a look towards the Jewish group to his right and nods, as if hoping that no one will create a disturbance.

SOME TENSIONS

At the last turn before Piazza Duomo, some tensions arise. But the disturbances aren’t directly connected with the march. A group of teenagers, speaking to each other in Arabic, come out of the McDonald’s at the entrance to the Galleria. When they see Israeli flags, they throw themselves into the front row of the group to try to tear them away. A scuffle ensues, which the private security fails to quell (despite it being little more than a shoving match). The police intervene belatedly and detain two young men, probably minors. A man from the pro-Israel section sustained an arm injury.

Below the stage, some protesters become irritated because the organizers refused their request to have two Palestinian young women speak. Tones are raised and a few slogans are chanted against the deploying police. Minor conflicts break out three times. There is some shoving, but nothing comparable to a charge or the “clashes” that authorities spoke of. The same group that was protesting the censorship imposed on Palestinian voices turns around and leaves in a spontaneous march that ends around 6 p.m. at Largo Cairoli, without incident.

MEANWHILE, AT THE REAR

It is impossible to go back. Looking at the march in reverse, it appears as a collection of a thousand intersecting marches. Each has its own version of the Liberation and is sharing it with others, not pitting it against those ahead of it or those behind it. There are the historical NGO, ARCI and Emergency; there is the young and disruptive Mediterranea. And then there are the social movements, never stable or predictable.

People are in short sleeves in the final section, which is not so much “final,” since one cannot discern where the march ends. The sun is helping, but it is the compact human tide that brings warmth. When the head of the march already arrived in Piazza Duomo, there is basically still no movement here. Or, rather, the only movement is the dancing to the music from the trucks. Behind that of API, the Association of Palestinians in Italy, we see another part of the galaxy that cuts across feminist and ecologist struggles, those of the social centers or for the right to housing.

At a subway entrance, a young man is waving two Palestinian flags. From that point, one can see the banner framing the truck of the Cantiere social center, which depicts the faces of Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Giorgia Meloni, Ali Khamenei and Joe Biden. Below the faces, the inscription reads: “Stop global war.”

In the middle, we see the representatives of the solidarity and popular buying groups and the exchange market: “For us, April 25 is a key date, because we are the young generations who find themselves in a condition of global war. The war on bodies waged by pro-lifers; the war on the climate. And the genocide of the Palestinian people: in Italy, in ’45, we seized the right to liberate ourselves, but for the Palestinians it hasn’t happened yet,” Emma tells us.

INTERSECTIONS

Palestine is like a magnet, a vortex that attracts all those who revolve around it. “Ecological movements have always been anti-fascist,” says Daniele from the Milan branch of Fridays for Future. “Today we are reaffirming the centrality of partisan resistance, ecological resistance and Palestinian resistance.”

Palestine comes up when speaking about every conflict, in answer to every question. “Movements against environmental disaster are undergoing different forms of repression,” Daniele continues. “And even though there are now climate cases before the courts, the resistance started outside. The struggle cannot come only through the spaces of freedom they grant us.”

ROOTS IN THE PRESENT

“When we say that April 25 is not a holiday, we mean that we need to bring the battle for freedom fought by the partisans into our daily lives,” says Rajaa Ibnou of the Gaza Freestyle collective. “Today, we cannot close our eyes to what is happening in occupied Palestine.”

In the background, the Lambretta truck passes by, with one of the groups from the social centers, among the most populous and with the lowest average age: “Our solidarity doesn’t begin with the latest Israeli offensive. It has deep roots that start from the experience of Vittorio Arrigoni. In 2014 we went to Gaza for the first time, to bring projects related to sports and underground arts. Soccer, skateboarding, circus. Nothing remains of what we built: one skate park was destroyed by Hamas – against whose anti-freedom policies we have always fought, because they denied participation to women and young people; the other one was destroyed by the Israeli army. The war also prevented us from setting up the International Women’s House we had been working on for some time. We needed to have already left in December.”

Looking across the enormous river of people, one can see a banner held aloft with poles that reads, “Tigotá workers in struggle.” It is carried by logistics workers, organized by CUB Trasporti, from Morocco, Bangladesh, India, Italy, Pakistan and many other countries. “A month and a half ago, the owners informed us that our warehouse is being shut down. A collective dismissal of people who have been working hard shifts, in any conditions, for five years. The bosses rejected all our proposals. We want to shout our suffering before all of Italy: we deserve rights too,” Talbi Sofiane tells us. With his comrades, he set out from Broni, a town in the province of Pavia, 50 kilometers from Milan.

Still further behind, a large red banner is waving: “Free Ilaria. Antifascism will not be put on trial.” Salis is also the only European candidate pictured on the Green and Left Alliance truck, and her name is held above the heads of the protesters by activists from the Micene social space. “You have to show solidarity with those who had the courage to go to Orbán’s Hungary to block a Nazi demonstration,” Rocky tells us. Will he vote for her? “I don’t know. Her candidacy puts us in a tough spot. Some of us have always voted further to the left, for Potere al Popolo or Rifondazione; others are staying away from the ballot box,” he replies.

Further ahead, Marta, a very young woman, passes by: “I have never voted, but this time I will do it with conviction. To get an antifascist of our times out of prison.”

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