In the Susa Valley and Turin, tens of homes and even restaurants owned by No TAV activists from the group Comitato di Lotta Popolare have been searched in an extraordinary anti-terrorism and subversion police operation. Police were looking for “explosives, blunt objects, items suitable for cutting fences and audio-visual and digital devices that could lead to the identification of possible accomplices.”
Searches and arrests have taken place under article 280 of the Italian Criminal Code rather than the more usually employed articles 270 and 270bis. This represents a significant reframing of the No TAV struggle by the judiciary, with consequences to be found in the actions of the police. Charges associated with article 280 (“subversion of democracy”) are easier to bring than those associated with article 270 (“criminal organisation”). For article 280 charges (which can attract custodial sentences of up to 30 years), a judge only requires a couple of injured police officers. Article 270 charges, on the other hand, are difficult to bring against anarchists (who are often involved in demonstrations) as they tend not to be involved in a formal organisation. In addition, the use of petrol bombs (Molotov cocktails) is treated most seriously by Italian law.
These searches and arrests are related to the protests that took place on July 10, when stones and firecrackers were thrown at the heavily fortified building site and many demonstrators were arrested. After the arrests, many demonstrations took place in solidarity with those arrested. A few days later, all were released.
On July 19, another demonstration, a march through the woods to the perimeter fence of the building site, turned very ugly with 63 injured, two detained and seven arrested. Among them was Marta, an activist who has reported harassment and humiliation by the police. She was left for four hours with a split lip (despite a police doctor having ordered immediate admission to hospital) while police officers spat at her and insulted her.
Tension is growing in the Susa Valley. Police jeeps carrying officers have been seen close to the No TAV camp in Venaus and other police vehicles are guarding different parts of the valley. No TAV activists believe that the new wave of searches and charges indicate the judiciary’s desire to increase the level of repression. There have been no more arrests but there is now the threat of most serious charges being brought, charges which could lead, without evidence, to long pre-trial detention orders.
As a footnote – reporting of the No TAV struggle, in all its variety, by the mainstream media is extremely biased. By presenting a partial story to the general population, the media (such as La Stampa, a newspaper based in Turin) encourages people to take a particular view, with no alternatives countenanced.