[Italy-editorial] su cs

mm goedel at fastwebnet.it
Mon Nov 29 03:14:28 PST 2004


the indipendent su cosenza


       
      
     

Italy faces what is widely seen as an assault on the right to demonstrate this week after it was announced that 13 members of a flamboyant, although non-violent, radical group are to be tried for "crimes" which could put them behind bars for years.

They make no bones about their contempt for capitalism and consumerism and their desire to change the system. And they were present in strength at the protests against the G8 summit in the northern Italian city of Genoa in July 2002 which ended in bloody violence and mass casualties among police and demonstrators.

But the 13 members of Italy's "disobbedienti" group who go on trial next week are not charged with crimes of assault or vandalism. Instead, they face grave but abstract accusations: "political conspiracy ... with the aim of disrupting the functions of the government"; "making subversive propaganda, and creating an association of 20,000 people to violently subvert the constituted economic order of the state".

The disobbedienti - the disobedient ones - have few friends in parliament, but voices across the opposition spectrum have united to condemn the trial, due to begin on Thursday in the southern city of Cosenza. The charges, used rarely, are a relic from pre-war years.

"The crime of opinion," said the left-wing daily L'Unita, "is a relic of the Fascist era and must be abolished". Fausto Bertinotti, leader of the Rifondazione Comunista party, called the trial "disturbing and dangerous", the product of a "repressive drift, in progress for some time, for which they want to criminalise dissent, menacing the basis of the state of rights."

The same anger was echoed in the centre-left Margherita [Daisy] party. "I agree with practically nothing they do," said Gianclaudio Bressa, "but what is at issue is the right to demonstrate. That's why parliament must raise its voice". A prominent union leader, Guglielmo Epifani, said: "You can't criminalise people simply for the content of the ideas they express."

The disobbedienti came into existence at the G8 summit. Previously, they had been known as "Tute Bianche" - the white overalls - from their custom of wearing such clothes to demonstrations. They had adopted the uniform after a large squat which they ran in central Milan was closed in 1994; the mayor had exulted: "From now on, squatters will be nothing more than ghosts wandering about the city."

In the past year, they have taken to raiding supermarkets in cities around the country, filling trolleys with stolen goods and then doing a Santa Claus act outside, distributing their non-purchases to passers-by.

They were among the architects of the huge protest against the G8 in July 2002 which descended into chaos, and in which one demonstrator died. But Luca Casarini, one of their leaders, says his group used only shields and armour made of bubblewrap against the riot police's batons. Of a rival group called Black Block, most often blamed for violence at Genoa, he says: "They are people who believe that, to attack capitalism, it suffices to break windows. That's their 'Smash capitalism'. We think otherwise. We think in terms of a process of social transformation."

While never invoking names such as Gandhi or Mandela, they are taking non-violence to new places. "For us to take up militaristic tactics would be crazy and political suicide," says Mr Casarini. "We would be crushed within three months. So we have to find a third way between those who reject economic globalisation and those who opt for a symbolic gesture, like demolishing a bank."

Of next week's trial he told The Independent: "It's a political trial, they want to strike at those who oppose the people running this country. They want to criminalise the movement, to eradicate the idea that there is another way possible other than capitalism. We're an inconvenience for those in power." 
   
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