I am not familiar with the intrigues of Roman politics. I do not know the gossip going around. I am not interested in antipathies among leaders, nor in clashes between currents. I tune out the maneuvers that are taking place under the surface of the news.
And I am abstaining from the lousy habit of reading between the lines. It is disgusting to me to think that some are just playing games to gain a position in the next city government, whatever this may be.
I’ve seen esteemed professionals taking a turn from Mediterranean Avenue only to “sprout up again” (as they say in Rome) right on Boardwalk. I have seen so many of them that I can no longer remember their names, I can’t tell them apart.
However, yet another eviction of a space of freedom in the city I live in is giving me the perspective of a cultural and human defeat that I am not willing to accept.
The Cinema Palazzo is located in a neighborhood that was once working class. It was damaged by Fascism, bombs and the Nazi-Fascist occupation. It was crossed by student protests and full of passion in the most lively and conflict-filled decades.
And on Wednesday morning, it was shut down by the strong arm of politics, as Mayor Raggi claimed the deed herself with a tweet: “I thank the Prefecture and the police for today’s eviction operations. In Rome, abusive occupations are not tolerated. Legality has been restored.”
During the same hours in which the eviction of a social space was being carried out, an extreme right wing pub was also being shut down. It was the return of the theory of “extremists on both sides” in a more modern form. A tweet by Virginia Raggi is enough to dust off this notion, repackage it and sell it to the consumers of the new millennium, the mayor’s future voters.
Reds, blacks—in the end, all the same. The commentators on TV or online know nothing about this. They barely have an idea of what a self-managed space is. Or perhaps they don’t have any idea at all.
Thus, a refuge of neo- or post-fascists, defiantly against the Constitution, with their conscience burdened with bombs and massacres, but a place which has had its back covered by those in power for decades, is equivalent to an abandoned cinema that was about to become a bingo hall. A building that looks enticing to those who want to transform even this last space for citizens into a place for consumers.
The statement by Raggi’s deputy, Luca Bergamo, was more sophisticated: “It is a loss of value for the community not to have been able to find a solution that would respect property rights and at the same time allow the continuation of the experience and activities in that place, while respecting the rules. The eviction ordered by the Prefecture is highlighting this failure.”
A simple analysis is enough to note that Luca Bergamo was not so crude as to try to put the two “extremes” of red and black in the balance, as the mayor did. Instead, he decided to weigh private property against the social and cultural function. Obviously, the second one weighed much less for him. And the door is being closed in its face, with promises of “we will see.” In the Eternal City, now in the hands of the landlords, a chapter is ending with the vague promise of a cultural connection and the even vaguer search for a suitable location for those who have brought a community to life.
Franca has gone down into the street to join the march to defend the Cinema Palazzo. She has white hair and wears an Italian flag handkerchief around her neck. She was born in 1938, the year of the racial laws. She is a daughter of “the Florist” Agostino Raponi, a partisan of the 5th Zone in Rome. “My father was in Via Tasso with Leone Ginzburg. He took him in his arms after they had tortured him to death,” she tells me. “How can they put us on the same level as the Fascists?”
No, dear Franca. The neo- or post-fascists are only a part of the fascinating aspects of the political message. With a more modern spirit, the Cinema Palazzo experience has real estate speculation as its enemy—the debasement of a community that is fighting against emptiness.
I am not familiar with the intrigues of Roman politics. I do not know the gossip going around. I am not interested in antipathies among leaders, nor in clashes between currents.
It disgusts me to know that the electoral campaign that will lead to the election of the next mayor of Rome is ignoring the history of a neighborhood where resistance to fascism is fighting alongside the resistance to cultural standardization.