“Humanity” in all its meanings—this was the word that best described the great anti-racist demonstration against the government’s security decree that invaded the streets of Rome on Saturday. The stark opposition was between “humanity” and “Salvini,” which stood for both the provisions of the decree named after the Minister of the Interior and the rhetoric he is constantly spewing. And there really was so much diverse humanity there, from all parts of Italy, rallying under the banner of the Indivisibili platform, which put out the call for the event.
The march lasted for more than two hours, from Termini station through via Cavour and via Merulana, and filling up Piazza San Giovanni. There was no official stage set up, so at the end there were only improvised speeches given from atop the trucks taking part in the march, parked in different places around the Basilica. The number of participants was much higher than even the most optimistic expectations of around 20,000 marchers, despite the reports of buses full of protestors being stopped at highway exits.
It was the grassroots left responding to the call put out by the platform and pouring into the capital “by any means necessary”—as one of the large banners read—without the support of any large organization.
“The pattern from the Macerata demonstration has repeated to a certain extent,” says Simone Vechioni from the SISMA community center, recalling the march in February. “Then as well, after Traini’s shooting spree, our city was invaded by 30,000 anti-fascists and anti-racists who responded to our call by word of mouth, because this was needed. Today, it was the same—in the face of the attacks by the Lega and the M5S against migrants and against the most disadvantaged parts of society, an attack on rights which will, in the end, affect everyone. Individual groups from our base, and particular individuals, have shown up without any marching orders to follow from above.”
Compared to other similar events, the most significant new development, one that was clearly visible on the streets yesterday, was the massive presence of migrants themselves. They were smiling, happy, and much more self-organized than on previous occasions, no longer found only in groups divided by ethnicity. For instance, a group of Africans from Molise spent their time loudly chanting the slogan they carried on their banner: “United we stand, divided we fall.”
“We are Nigerians, Malians, Ghanaians, we’re working different jobs in agriculture or as cultural mediators, and we’re organizing ourselves via the Internet,” one of them told us.
Some were going around with handwritten cardboard signs on their backs, which gave powerful answers to the question of the “free ride” that migrants are supposedly getting in Italy according to right-wing rhetoric. One example: “It’s not a free ride when you have a lump in your throat from homesickness.” Another: “It’s not a free ride when you wake up at dawn to do exploitative labor in the fields.”
Many of them came from Caserta. Some stood behind the huge banner from the Ex Canapificio “Let Us Pass” social center, which they carried almost at a running pace. In this group, one could also see the representatives of the Caserta antirazzista (“Anti-racist Caserta”) sports club, part of the We Want to Play initiative, with the slogan, “No one is illegal when playing soccer.”
“We got organized two years ago,” says Marco Proto, founder of the RFC Lions soccer club, “together with the St. Ambroeus club in Milan, AfroNapoli in Naples and San Precario in Padua, to denounce the discrimination against non-EU citizens in the rules for membership of the Italian Football Federation, and we managed to get the notorious Article 40 section 4 repealed, but now the security decree will prevent migrants from registering as residents at local city halls, so our request for securing Italian Football Federation membership has been thrown into question.”
There were so many organized groups that you wouldn’t expect, and whose support cannot be measured by the mainstream media’s opinion polls or likely voter screens. For instance, Officina 47, another network of mentors and guardians for unaccompanied child migrants, appointed by the juvenile courts according to Law 47/2017 (known as the Zampa Law). “There are a hundred of us just in Rome,” they tell us, “and we think of ourselves as something like social parents: we are not foster parents, we follow the kids who are in the migrant centers and we remain by their side as they grow up.”
There were also representatives of certain SPRAR projects, such as the Coordinamento Cosenza, as well as people from Salerno selling T-shirts and umbrellas with the message “Tu nun sì razzista, sì strunz” (“You’re not a racist, you’re an asshole,” the viral phrase uttered by an indignant Italian woman to a racist young man who insulted an immigrant in the Circumvesuviana train close to Naples a few days ago), with a portion of the proceeds going to the Baobab Center in Rome.
And there were also Romans bearing the words “E anche ’sta rottura di cazzo dei fascisti” (“And this fascist pain in the ass, too” — another viral message from a local resident to describe an anti-migrant demonstration in front of the reception center housing the migrants rescued by the Diciotti ship in August).
A pregnant woman—her daughter, Dora, is due in January—wore a sign on her belly that said: “Beware, a dangerous citizen of the world is about to be born.”
Amid all this human diversity, there were also, of course, many banners and signs belonging to the militant opposition on the left: COBAS, USI, Diem25, newspapers—from Left to La Comune—and, toward the back, a large red contingent from Rifondazione, with a group from Potere al Popolo just a few feet away.
We saw Jacopo Fo among the crowd, and he had something to say to us: “We have changed the world, and we’ll change it even more.” A good hope, and a good omen.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.