At the end of 2010, there was widespread protest by students and university precarious workers against the reform of the university system in Italy. This reform took place during Silvio Berlusconi’s government, and was drafted by minister Mariastella Gelmini.
If two images were chosen to represent this struggle, they would be the occupation by students and workers of university roofs and monuments (including the Coliseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa), and the demonstration in Rome on 14 December 2010 which culminated in clashes in Piazza del Popolo. Throughout that day, the Italian capital’s streets were filled by students and workers as Parliament discussed whether to approve the reform. Over the previous few days the government had shown many signs of instability, and it was thought that the reform vote would bring it down. The demonstration aimed both to stop approval of the reform and to accelerate the fall of the government.
On 5 February 2014 Ancona’s centre-left city council evicted refugees and homeless people from the Casa de Nialtri housing occupation. The Casa was a former infant school (disused for three years) which had been occupied on 22 December by people from a large network of grassroots groups and associations, together with a number of Italian and migrant homeless people. The Casa – the first housing occupation in Ancona for more than two decades – provided a home to around 60 people.
Most of the migrants involved had been trying to get assistance from the social services over the past few months but nothing useful had been forthcoming. For North African migrants, the situation had become much worse after the end of the Emergenza Nordafrica Project (the controversial programme put together by Italian authorities to assist North African refugees). In Ancona, the end of this programme meant that a large number of refugees were abandoned in February 2013, with no income, no accommodation and only able to stay in the public dormitory (which has just 30 places) for a limited number of nights in the year. The Casa, by contrast, was supported by most of the neighbourhood’s residents, some of whom brought food and clothes to the occupiers.
Liguria, with its beautiful coastline and wonderful mountainous hinterland, has been a place for people from Northern Europe and the north of Italy to take holidays since the 19th century. After the Second World War the region saw a boom in tourism and in industrial development with all the attendant consequences: illegal building activity, destruction of the environment, very large numbers of migrants and urbanisation of the rural population.
Today the region is being hit by de-industrialization and a difficult rebuilding of the economy. Local government is focusing on mass tourism (particularly cruise ships) and port development, seemingly ignoring the increasingly impoverished population which pays the environmental costs of the associated pollution. Each autumn and winter there are devastating floods which claim lives, caused by the destruction of forests, the abandonment of rural areas and uncontrolled building. Little Liguria comes first on the list of Northern Italian regions for crime connected to illegal development (often involving the mafia and politicians) and second for unemployment.
Looking at the issue of the Maersk platform in Vado Ligure is a good way to understand Liguria’s economic system: public money serving private companies, indifference to the needs of the region and its inhabitants’ wishes and opinions, and the destruction of the natural environment.
Vous avez entendu parler d’eux ces dernières semaines. Ce sont ceux qui ont été arrêtés le 9 décembre et qui sont accusés (mais l’accusation reste toute à démontrer) d’avoir attaqué le chantier Tav à Chiomonte. Au cours de l’attaque, un compresseur a été endommagé et personne n’a été blessé. Toutefois, l’accusation de terrorisme est justifiée selon eux parce que “dans ce contexte-là” et avec leurs actions présumées “ils auraient pu” semer la panique dans la population et causer un grand dommage à l’Italie. Quel type de dommage? Un préjudice d’image. Répétons-le encore : un préjudice d’image. L’ accusation est fondée sur le potentiel de ces conduites-là mais, étant donné que le délit de terrorisme par imprudence n’existe pas dans notre système judiciaire, le chef d’accusation porte sur terrorisme réel et volontaire. Pour mettre les choses au clair, ce type de terrorisme nous rappelle spontanément les massacres des années ‘70 et ’80, les bombes dans les trains et sur les places et, plus récemment, dans les aéroports, les métros, les gratte-ciel. Le terrorisme contre des personnes inconscientes, qui tuait et qui terrorisait toute la population. Bien au contraire, nos fils, frères, sœurs ont toujours respecté la vie des autres.
Over the past weekend (31 January – 2 February), a large number of North African and European associations, movements and networks concerned with migrants’ issues met on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The aim was to put together a charter stating the rights of migrants and, in the long-term, to change European policies about migration.
The island was chosen for the meeting after the refugee tragedies of October 2013, underlining the Charter’s new ideas and the political decision to engage actively with the island’s population. Astonishingly, the people of Lampedusa have been left for years by European and Italian institutions to deal with the migrants’ struggles and tragedies alone.