[en] Free Republic of Venaus

The 30th of November, 2005 was the date planned by LTF (the General Contractor for the realization of the Turin-Lyon TAV) for the compulsory purchase of the pieces of land needed in order to build a exploratory drilling near Venaus, a little town (pop. 1,000) in the Susa Valley.  Against the decision the No-TAV committees argued that a 7.5-km long tunnel with a 6-m diameter can’t be considered a exploration, and prepared to stop the over 100 land acquisitions to begin in that day. If the operations had not taken place in that day the whole legal procedure would need to be restarted from scratch, taking no less than 3 months for its completion.

Already before dawn hundreds of people were on the spot. Before 8am, when LTF technicians arrived, they had become more than 2,000, so the police escorting them could not break the human chain around the land to be forcefully acquired. After about 30 minutes of physical confrontation (without relevant violence from neither side) a negotiation began, lasting many hours. The two arrays of policemen and protesters faced each other at a short distance. In the evening, the No-TAV movement was still occupying the zone, including part of the national road. The No-TAV people did not move from there for 6 days, keeping out the police forces with the help of two barricades on the road. This prolonged sit-in rally was known as the Free Republic of Venaus.

In the night between the 5th and the 6th of December, police forces reconquered the Free Republic. 500 policemen expelled the about 30 occupiers, some of whom suffered significant injuries (one had to stay in the hospital for over one month, a journalist got an arm broken). Three years later, the judge in the trial for this violence concluded that “the agents […] have reacted in a disproportionate way to the situation they were in” but none of them has been condemned because “the individuals who injured some demonstrators could not be identified”.

Immediately the protest spread to the whole valley. Railway, highway and the two international roads have been blocked and for the whole day it was impossible to pass. At night the road blocks were removed by protesters, but the next morning they reappeared, and on the 8th of December (national holiday in Italy)
about 50000 persons walked from Susa to Venaus (about 5 km). The declared intention was to place a new presidium on a legally owned piece of land near to the expropriated ones. Police forces tried to stop the demonstration, but they only obtained to modify its path. When the protesters finally reached the fences less than 100 policemen were there and when No-TAV decided to tear the fences down policemen could do nothing, they had to run away, leaving even their lunch. At the sunset the area was another time under No-TAV’s control, but the ‘free republic’ time was over. In the following days negotiations took place to prevent No-TAV from disturbing Olympic games of Torino 2006, which had to take place near the protest zone in February. The national (formed by right-wing parties) and regional (formed by left-wing parties) government worked together to obtain a ‘Olympic truce’, offering a renegotiation on the project. A so called ‘tavolo tecnico’ (technical table) was settled to reconsider the whole project. It ended up in 2009 confirming (except some details) the original project. No-TAV won the war but lost the armistice.