Florence. Italy. In the evening of Friday, October 30, a demonstration took place in the Tuscan city, which was followed by clashes with the police. During the night, four activists were arrested and 20 were reported. The testimonies of two women who participated in the protest. We do not agree with everything they said. But we think it gives an idea about who is taking the streets in Italy at the moment.
Originally published by Dinamo Press. Translated by Enough 14.
Who filled the square?
Gabriella: “The composition was really heterogeneous, there were a lot of young men and women, probably also second generation Italians. There were also young people around out for Halloween who, finding themselves in the middle by chance, took advantage of it. There was the old man who barely knows how to use his smartphone and tried to make videos, the restaurateur who said “how do I eat, go to work”, so many young people. Then of course there were also those who said “I’ve been a native from Florence for generations, I don’t want to wear this mask because I want to breathe the air of Florence because it’s mine” and those who waved the flag of Italy shouting “freedom, freedom” or those who repeated “we don’t want violence” and tried to stop those who threw bottles or other things”.
Anastasia: “I had some difficulty in understanding the composition of the square. Surely there were activists of social spaces. A lot of ultras appeared. There was more or less balance between males and females, although the men were more visible. There were many young people and groups of average students, even many second generation young people. And then two people with tricolor flags”.
Were there fascists present?
Gabriella: “Those who went to the policemen to shout ‘you don’t scare me, come on down’ seemed really fascist. There was gratuitous violence and therefore there were certainly those who, like the fascists, wanted to use the discontent to exploit it”.
Anastasia: “Obviously if you see a tricolor it is easy to think that there are fascists. But I experienced the Gilets Jaunes movement in which there were millions of French flags and not all of them were far-right. On the contrary. Surely yesterday there were some fascists, but they were few and I know that in some cases they were pushed away by other demonstrators”.
What were the demands of the square?
Gabriella: “It seemed to me that there was no denial that the virus is dangerous or that it should be contained. What was demanded was to take into account that these closures, these measures that have been taken, however, will cause victims. People will die not only of Covid, but a lot of people will also die of hunger, they will die because they will find themselves locked in a house with violent people, they will die because many students work illegally, they do not know how to pay tuition fees, how to buy books, how to pay rent. The demand was simple: redistribute wealth. Nothing more. Asking to face the crisis by making a few sacrifices, not asking them always and only to the people who were already struggling to make ends meet. It should be added that we are not deniers, or at least not us. The virus is there and we know it but it is not the only reason why so many people will die”.
Anastasia: “I have heard many chants against the police and the government. Also because there was a very bad management of the square by the police who split people into different groups, chasing demonstrators all night, throwing tear gas. Everything ended up in a hand-to-hand clash. It was not easy to understand the demands of the square, but perhaps it also depends on where I was and at what moment. I think there were interventions with more distinctive contents”.
Why were you at the square?
Gabriella: “Because to be there is also to take a space that is otherwise occupied by possible violent fascists. To be there with ideas, to network and protect the space of the event also serves this purpose. If you create a moment of tension then you try to contain it to make the square more accessible for everyone. What we wanted, as activists of the Magni*Fica, was to guarantee the right to demonstrate and express this moment of crisis from below, without being bombarded by tear gas, batons and people being chased, as it happened in the past”.
Anastasia: “Because I had seen that this event was very popular and had come to me from different people who don’t usually take the streets. It fascinated me. Then, having heard others expressing doubts and saying that there were fascists just like at the beginning of the Gilets Jaunes, I think it was important to be there to take away space from the far-right”.
How did the police behave?
Gabriella: “In a violent and patriarchal way, as a law student I also add unconstitutional, in the deepest disregard for human rights. I was beaten together with other activists just before arriving at Piazza della Signoria at the concentration of the unauthorized demonstration. The police stopped us in Piazza Duomo and pushed us back. Believing that what was happening was an abuse of power, I started telling the cops that they had to respect our right of assembly. In response I was told “this is your law”. This right is not my law, it is the Constitution. Just as I was talking they started beating up other people who were there. I jumped in the middle to try to protect them and the police made me pay for all those words I had said before. They started hitting me with a baton on my head and on my shoulder, a bit everywhere we say. My boyfriend intervened and to prevent another blow he almost broke his wrist. After that I escaped and ran away, but a policeman threw his plastic shield on my back and head and I sprained my ankle on the way out. Then they pushed us to the other side of the Arno river and chased us. The Digos (plain clothes cops, Enough 14) on their bikes were also there. We tried to reach Piazza della Signoria but they blocked us. There were small trucks and I saw some Molotov cocktails”.
Anastasia: “I had never seen Florence so militarized before. The demonstration was almost immediately a sequence of clashes and tear gas. They made an absurd manhunt. The center was armored, let’s say there was little material to break even if I wanted to. People directed their anger towards the police who then responded with batons, charges and tear gas. The situation was turbulent. I did not see the arrests because I was running”.
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