Italy: Half a million demonstrate in Rome

Half a million people demonstrated in bright Spring sunshine on the streets of Rome last Saturday, 12 April. A record-breaking peace banner in the colours of the rainbow – one kilometre long and 13 metres wide – made its way through the centre of Italy’s capital. Numerous groups of young people and workers expressed their continuing anger in a very festive manner -shouting, singing and dancing all along the route of the march.

"Permanent battle" against "Infinite war"

They had travelled from far and wide, in spite of problems with trains being cancelled and attempts by the rightwing-controlled media to say that there was no longer any point in participating. They were there to say ‘No’ to the occupation of Iraq and ‘No’ to the ‘Infinite war’, which they fear is still on the agenda of George Bush and his henchmen. One of the most popular groups present, were those American citizens living in Italy who carried a big banner with the words ‘Not in my name’. They said, "We are indignant that a group of oil companies has paved the way for this horrific conflict…and above all we are here to demand that the Iraqi people can have self-determination without occupation".

Two of the major trade union federations – the Cgil and the Cisl – had upheld their call for their members to participate. Some of the leaders of the centre left, like D’Alema of the ‘Democrats of the Left’ (DS), and Rutelli of the ‘Margherita’ party, decided not to turn up. Others like Fassino (DS) and Castagnetti (head of the Margherita parliamentary group) were there, along with the former and current leaders of the largest trade union federation, the Cgil – Cofferati and Epifani. The leader of the usually moderate Cisl trade union federation, Pezzotta, declared, "We are here to continue the permanent battle for peace!"

"Empire doomed to collapse"

Bertinotti, leader of the Rifondazione Comunista (RC), spoke of the task of defeating the "party of war", and Agnoletto of the ‘No global’ Social Forum movement demanded an immediate cease-fire in Iraq, the withdrawal of the Anglo-American presence, the sending of humanitarian aid and no sending of Italian soldiers. (On Tuesday, 15 April, the Italian parliament is voting on the question of sending Carabinieri and other Italian forces to Iraq.)

Other demonstrations took place across the country (see separate report on Catania) and will no doubt be maintained and even grow again if there is any attempt to extend the military invasion of Iraq to Syria, Iran or anywhere else on the globe. Referring to the country’s own history, one orator in Rome on Saturday said, "We know only too well that an Empire doomed to collapse, is capable of the most violent and bloody military campaigns". The thoughts of everyone were summed up in the slogan shouted from the platform, "No to permanent global war!"

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April 2003