02. The Events of March

Submitted by Ex-temp on August 12, 2009

The reaction of the comrades in Bologna when they heard that Francesco Lorusso, a militant of Lotta Continua, had been shot dead by the police. They make preparations
to come out onto the streets.

We didn't sleep long. We all heard Faola's voice, scared, as if in a dream. Outside it was raining.
"Francesco Who? Lorusso?"
"They shot him in the back. He couldn't speak. Blood was coming out of his mouth. It was the Carabinieri who did I.”
"The bastards ..... "
"The comrades asked me to call you. Watch out - there's a FIAT 127 full of them outside."
"Let's go out quickly, in small groups. Give me some socks, mine are all wet."
On the way to the University I start thinking of the discussion I had with Francesco about street-fighting tactics. His argument had been spot-on. Sometimes, on the way, I imagine I see his face .... and then I shake my head and say I'm crazy. I remember him, sweating, with his shirt wringing-wet and his jacket open, when we were running away from the police together.

In Via Zamboni there are barricades, one after another, all shiny-wet from the rain. I recognise the tables from the University canteen, the benches from the Faculty of Literature, the flower pots from Piazza Scaravilli.

There are hundreds of students and comrades, in complete silence, with their hair wet. Someone lines up dozens of empty, clinking bottles of different sizes, which are filled with petrol out of a huge container taken from the canteen. Every now and then someone complains that the fuse-ribbon is coming to an end, that we must go get more wind-proof matches etc.

Francesco is dead, and from everyone's faces you can see that they all know it. There are lots of red eyes everywhere. One bloke is crying by himself in front of a wall. Some are walking up and down in the square, as if they were trying to talk but there's no need. They're all thinking the same thing.

The events of March 11th-19th in Bologna began with a meeting, called by "Communion and Liberation" (a neo-mediaeval fanatical Catholic youth group), and attended by about 400 people at 10 o'clock in the morning. Five comrades from the Faculty of Medicine at Bologna arrived at the door to see what was going on. They were roughed up and thrown out. The news spread around the University, and about 30 comrades gathered outside the meeting. They were faced by a hundred or so heavies from C&L.

In the meantime, outside the Anatomy Institute, a hundred or so comrades group together. They tried to break into the meeting hall. The comrades demand that those responsible for the assault be identified, and that the rest of the Communion & Liberation meeting leaves quietly. When they see that these attempts are useless, the comrades gather and shout slogans against C&L.

As a defence against this, a Molotov is thrown, setting fire to a jeep. Then, in Via Mascarella, a group of comrades returning to the University runs into
a column of carabinieri coming from the Via Irnerio direction. At this point, comrade Francesco Lorusso (a Lotta Continua militant) was killed in cold blood. He had been studying until 12.30, and only then had he gone into the street.

A Calibre 9 pistol was aimed at the comrades. 6 or 7 shots were fired in rapid succession. The gunman (as the workers in nearby Zanichelli's have testified) was wearing a uniform, without the white sash, and a helmet with a visor. He had taken aim carefully, resting his arm on a parked car. When Francesco heard the first shots, he turned round, as he ran with the others. He was hit through the side. An ambulance took him to hospital. He was dead on arrival.

In the meantime, after the police had dispersed the comrades in Via Irnerio, they withdrew to the Police Station.

The news that a comrade had been killed spread rapidly. Radio Alice broadcast it at about 1.30 pm. From then on there was a continual flow of comrades coming into the University area. Incredulity and disorientation were followed by sorrow and anger.
The University organised itself to avoid further provocations by the police. All the incoming roads and main entrances were closed off. Each Faculty held meetings. All the lecture halls, the Canteen, every available space was filled with comrades discussing and organising. It soon became clear that Francesco's murder was no "accident“. A demonstration was called.

Phone calls were made to the various factory councils in the area, and a delegation was sent to the main Trade Union offices to ask for support for the march. The anger and the sorrow were growing. Communion & Liberation's bookshop was the first target: it was wrecked.

After the Assemblies were over, stewards were organised in order to ensure the march could defend itself. From all sides the cry goes up that our target should be the offices of the Christian Democrat Party. An impressive demonstration of 8,000 comrades set off through the streets.

By that time it was 5.30pm. The march was passing through Via Rizzoli. Plush shops. Some comrades left the march and smashed shop windows in the main street. The demonstration then marched through Piazza Maggiore, picking up more comrades from there. The representatives from the Factory councils did not turn up. The march entered Via Ugo Bassi, where more shop windows were broken. Near the Christian Democrat offices, the police clashed with the head of the march. The comrades managed to stay intact. Meanwhile, the rear was attacked with heavy volleys of tear-gas grenades. The march broke up and dispersed into the narrow side-streets. One lot of comrades regrouped in Via Indipendenza and marched to the railway station, where they occupied some of the tracks.

The fighting began in the station. The police attacked with teargas. The comrades fought back, and were able to escape through a side exit. In the meantime, the rest of the march had arrived in the University area, where a mass meeting was held, to draw conclusions from the day's events, and to organise for the next day's national demonstration in Rome (see the Rome section of this pamphlet - page 59).

At the same time comrades broke into the “Cantunzein” luxury restaurant and liberated food so that hundreds of comrades could eat.
During the night the police carried out many house-searches, and arrested many people.

Radio Alice, among other things, broadcast this statement from a comrade who had been involved in the fighting. This statement was one of the texts used to charge the
arrested Radio Alice workers, and was the reason why they were refused bail.

The question is, who takes responsibility for today's events in Bologna. Let's remember them - all the things the radio and TV have concentrated on. Like the fires in the offices of “Resto del Carlino” (a local right-wing daily); the fires in the two police stations; the fire in the FIAT agency office; the fire in the Luisa Spagnoli shop, which lives off the sweat of women prisoners, making them make high fashion products. For all these things, for the fights in Via Ugo Bassi which the comrades did not start, for the fights which happened because the cops tried to clear out the railway station, for all this. all the comrades assume full responsibility.

Our action squads were decided collectively. Everyone took part, all together in the University today. All together preparing the Molotov bottles. All together tearing up the grounds of the University to get cobble-stones.

All of us together had Molotovs and cobble-stones in our pockets, because today was a violent demonstration, because we had chosen to make it violent, and we were all together, able to defend ourselves without stewards etc, without any isolated groups of provocateurs, or autonomists, doing things, because .All the comrades took part in all the things that were done today.

The comrades withdraw from Piazza Verdi and the police come up from Via Respighi. The ground is littered with cobblestones. The barricade
is one of several set up to stop a police invasion.

Saturday March 12th .

The next morning, at 8.00am, many comrades boarded coaches to go to Rome for the national demonstrat­ion (see the Rome section of this pamphlet) .

At 9.00am the remaining comrades gathered in Piazza Verdi, for the Bologna demo. They marched off, about 4,000 strong, towards Piazza Maggiore. Here the official, Trade Union sponsored demonstration over the killing of comrade Lorusso was under way.

The square was surrounded by a cordon of CP heavies, who try to prevent the march from entering the square. From behind the CP cordons people are shouting: "Let Francesco' s comrades in!"

After some arguing and pushing, about half the march managed to enter the square. But Giovanni Lorusso, Francesco's brother, who was supposed to speak on behalf of the whole movement, was not allowed to address the crowd.

Then, at 2.00pm, a Press Conference was held with the journalists and production-collectives of the Free Radio stations of Bologna. But it was interrupted by the news that the police had attacked the University.

The comrades abandoned the conference, and left the Faculty building. The object now was to stop the police from getting into the University, and to make sure that no isolated groups of comrades got caught up in skirmishes with the police. The police were starting sporadic attacks throughout the City Centre and in the area around the University .

In order to achieve these objectives, barricades were set up in the streets (marked 'k' on our map). By this time the police were firing teargas grenades and baton-charging passers-by in Via Rizzoli and Piazza Maggiore. This provoked an instant reaction from the people, who spontaneously grouped to­gether into a big crowd that forced the police to retreat back as far as the Two Towers.

Suddenly the police started firing tear gas again. But this did not intimidate the people. In fact a lot of people stayed in the streets there for hours and hours, as a protest against the provocatory presence of the police.

Meantime, an old comrade was calling people to regroup after each volley of teargas grenades, by playing the Red Flag on his mouth organ.

From 8.30 to 9.15pm the police withdrew from the University area. This enabled the students to hold meetings to discuss what to do. It was decided that they would leave the University (under the threats from the police) and go en masse to Piazza Maggiore, where they would debate with the people there.

Shortly after this decision, a gun shop was broken into not far from the University. This action took place outside of the direct control of the movement, after the students had left the university.

At 10.25pm the police occupied the street where Radio Alice had its transmitter, in an area that had not so far been touched by the fighting. They closed down the bars and cafes, fired teargas grenades at both ends of the street, and moved in on the "hive of subversive activity" wearing bulletproof jackets and machine-guns at the ready. (See our section on Radio Alice).

Over the radio Alice transmitted the noise of the door being broken down and the microphone being torn away. The police arrest 8 people, who were then held for "association and instigation to commit crimes".

It's important to note, among Saturday's events, the mysterious and worrying article that was printed on Saturday morning by "Il Resto del Carlino" (the local right-wing paper). It reported that Friday's events included the attack and looting of a gun shop. Well-just watch this: the event did in fact happen .. but on Saturday evening, many hours after the paper was printed. How could Il Resto foresee what was to happen 24 hours later!!?

(Report from the Counter-Info Collective) .

The street-fighting went on all evening, up till midnight. By that time the town was in a State of Siege. The University was finally evacuated, under police threat that they would launch a heavy attack at 1.00am. Heavy police reinforcements had been brought in from other towns.

We could not hope to summarise the days events. So we've limited ourselves to reprinting two phone calls that were made to Radio Alice (which was monitoring the street-fighting throughout). The first call was incriminated by the police.

- Hello .. Radio Alice here. Don't worry. We are still broadcasting the news reports that we're getting.
- OK. Well, here at the end of Via Rizzoli the demonstrators have hemmed in the police. They've begun to hem them in near the Two Towers. It was great .. because they came forward and just sat down and made fun of the police, who didn't know what to do. Anyway, about 15 seconds ago they just let off Just a second .. this is important ... Shit .... are you still there?

I dropped the phone. Can you still hear me? OK. Look, I'm Bonvi, the cartoon­ist. Ln any case, this was the situation .. the comrades, they've been sitting down in the Square. They've started a pretty powerful struggle. The police have just now fired the tear-gas grenades. Via Rizzoli is full of gas. My studio here is full of people who have come in from the side streets looking for shelter. So .. the situation's still very fluid, but it's some­thing very good, and I have the impression that the Town is responding to this provocation very well. I’ll hand you over to Gabriele now .

_ So, they've opened fire here in Via Rizzoli. For no reason - because there weren't any comrades here. And now the townspeople are making very harsh comments about the police, because right here they've done things that were completely uncalled for,. Invaded houses with tear-gas for no reason at all. They just want to create chaos - that's it. That's all there is to it. Anyway, up till 5 minutes ago you could still hear the odd tear-gas grenade being fired off here. Nothing important for the moment. Bye for now.


- Well, here's the situation in Piazza Verdi. The police have succeeded in occupying the square. The comrades are grouped behind the barricade
near the Faculty of Letters, and they're also behind the University canteen. Both sides are firing guns. Tear-gas grenades are being fired at chest­ height. This is the situation as far as we can make out.
- Just a second ... I didn't get that .... What do you mean "gunfire from both sides"?
- I mean they're shooting from both sides. Or at least, you can hear pistol shots from both sides, with Molotov cocktails being thrown etc. By the way, I think the Law Faculty is on fire. I can't tell for sure, but we can see a lot of smoke coming up near the Law Faculty. That's all for now.

At this point Radio Alice started to receive some rather odd calls. The first was a string of insults. The next two announced non-existent marches of workers coming in from the outskirts of town. When news is given over the radio 'live', this sort of thing can happen. But the comrades working on the station always made it clear that any such 'live' news was transmitted subject to confirmation. In this case, there was no further confirmation of the "marching columns of workers", and so the radio declared them to be a false rumour intended to confuse the situation.

Saturday's fighting died down, late in the night. It was not clear what the next day's activities would bring. A comrade wrote a poem, describing the feeling.

It's already dark. Piazza Verdi and Via Zamboni are covered with rubble
with the burnt-out shells of tear-gas grenades and granite cobble-stones strewn.
The police have gone away. Tiredness. Anger. Joy.
The whiff of rebellion after years of cringing submission.
The faces of the comrades are smiling; their eyes are all red from the tear-gas. Bottles of good wine taken from the bars are passed round. Champagne! Joints. Molotovs .....
A piano is playing Chopin. It's in the middle of the street. Somebody brought it out of a bar. Right behind a barricade.
We are drunk. Nobody's giving orders today. Tomorrow? Tomorrow they'll come with tanks. They'll crush us again. But today, for a few hours, this land is free. Chopin. Wine. Anger and Joy.

The street fighting on Saturday had been heavy. Cossiga's police had attacked the university, which was defended by barricades. The battle lines shifted to and fro. The town was in a State of Siege, militarily occupied.

Radio Alice had been closed down. Shortly afterwards, L'Unita, the CP's daily paper, was able to report with satisfaction: "Radio Alice, one of the main nerve centres of the very serious provocations of the last few days, has been closed down. As regards the role played by Radio Alice as an organ of subversion, it is worth saying that the repressive measures inflicted on it have come rather late in the day."

At about dawn the next day, 3,000 carabinieri and police, complete
with armoured vehicles, began to occupy the University area. They found it completely deserted. Among other things, they broke down the doors of the
main building, and they vandalised the office of the CPS (Students' Political Committee) - Fascist graffiti were found here when the University was re-opened.
News spread among the students that there was to be a meeting in San Donat, one of the areas where barricades had gone up the day before. Also, during the morning, Radio Alice started transmitting again, under the name "March 12th Collective". But the broadcast was jammed by someone trans­mitting a continuous whistling sound on the same wave-length.

In the afternoon, the mass assembly was held, as planned. It decided to send a delegation to the Town Hall, and to the town's main Trade Union office, to demand the resignation of the University rector (for his part in the attack on the movement) and the de-militarisation of the town.

During the evening the police continued to keep up their climate of tension. Even if small groups of 5-6 people gathered in the town centre, the police were firing tear-gas to break them up.

Meantime, during the afternoon the authorities had traced the new location of "Radio March 12th Collective". The police shut off the electrical power supply to half the neighbourhood - but then the radio started broadcast­ing again on batteries, on a slightly different wavelength from the inter­fering whistle. At this point the police moved in - but they found the door barred and bolted. The comrades had time to make their getaway

Sunday March 13th:
The situation in the town is still serious and worrying after the fighting that took place yesterday in the University area and in certain other areas of the town centre, due to the continuing presence of armed groups of provocateurs. We are facing an explicit attack on the democratic institutions, an attack against civil order in the town.

It is necessary for the entire citizenry to be aware of the dangers of the situation and of the need to isolate the provocateurs, against whom the security forces must intervene in order to re-establish democratic liberties and civil order .....

As from this moment, the PCI will act so as to be a point of reference for all democratic forces, and for all citizens who want to play their part against the violence and the provocation!'

This Press Release accurately sums up the position taken by the Communist Party during the movement of March. Elsewhere we continue This outrageous account/distortion/pack of lies from the CP One of the reasons why Alice was chosen as the name of the radio station was that CP-controlled Bologna is a sort of weird Wonderland, where things are not what they seem to be.

Francesco's funeral
Comrade Lorusso's funeral was fixed for 10 o'clock in the morning on Monday the 14th. The Prefect had issued a ban, forbidding any type of demonstration in the City Centre. This meant that the traditional lying-­in-state custom of Italian funerals could not be observed. As a result the funeral was held in the suburbs, 'Ln Piazza della Pace.

The Communist Party refused to attend the funeral. The Socialists sent only a delegation. The Trade Unions called a one-hour strike, with mass meet­ings to be held in the factories at precisely the same time as the funeral. The students sent deleg­ations to the bigger fac­tories, to explain the truth of what had been happening, and to ask for an extension of the one hour strike. In the event, a lot of workers, students and townspeople were able to come to the funeral, despite difficulties, like a bus-strike in town.

In the afternoon the students gathered again in the San Donato neighbour­hood, to hold a mass meeting. This meeting was prevented from happening, by the police. The police sealed off the bridge and surrounded the neighbourhood. The students then divided up into delegations, to go to the factories. All the while, their movements were closely followed by police helicopters~ The coaches that went back to the City Centre were stopped by the police, who made the students get out at gun-point, frisking them, and taking into custody anyone without identification papers, or anyone carrying lemons (considered to be subversive equipment - lemon-juice is an antidote to tear­gas).

When the mass meetings in the factories were over, the students met in the Minerva Cinema to weigh up the outcome of the day's events. It was felt by everyone that the workers were very ill-informed about what had been happening in the preceding days.

Tuesday March 15th
For Wednesday a demonstration had been called in Bologna, by the political parties of the "constitutional arc" (including the CP and the Unions). The demonstration was as much an affirmation of law and order as anything else.

During Tuesday morning, a delegation of 10 comrades went to the Aldini - but they found it closed, by order of the City Council. The Council had spread a rumour that a "horde of autonomists" was coming to invade the school. As a result SASIB workers went on strike, and turned out to picket and defend the school, preventing the delegation from explaining why it had come.

The meeting place was shifted to Piazza dell'Unita, and afterwards the Assembly was held in the Ca' dei Fiori Cinema - where it was decided that certain things needed to be done for the following day's demonstration. Counter-information work had- to be done in the factories and working class neighbourhoods, to break through the barrier of silence, and to explain that the student movement was not going to support a demonstration that was openly directed against the movement itself - a demonstration which was to include the Christian Democrats, who were mainly responsible for the murder of Francesco.

The movement would only agree to enter Piazza Maggiore if Giovanni Lorusso (Francesco's brother) was allowed to speak from the platform and explain the positions and the aims of the movement.

Wednesday March 16th
On Wednesday the students got organised, and went to carry out blanket-leafletting of the townspeople of Bologna, in the var­ious neighbourhoods and factories.
At 2.00pm the comrades gathered in Via Rizzoli. The last-minute negotiations about whether to allow comrade Giovanni to speak at the official demonstration were breaking down.

The Trade Union and Communist Party stew­ards blocked off the entrances to the square, at the same time as police sealed off the sidestreets. We started a massive sit-down in Via Rizzoli. During the sit­down, Giovanni Lorusso read the speech that he should have read from the official platform. There were about 10,000 of us in Via Rizzoli - all shouting slogans and singing revolutionary songs. At the end of the demonstration in Piazza Maggiore, the students set off on a march, and many townspeople and workers who had been stay­ing in the Square up till then, came out and joined them. The march, about 15,000 strong, beaded for Piazza dei Martiri, where Giovanni Lorusso read his speech again.

The Sit Down



The following letter from a shop worker was published in Lotta Continua on March 23rd.)

Dear Comrades,
I work as a shop assistant in a high-class shop in Bologna's historic city centre. I didn't want to go on the demonstration on March 16th in Bologna. Why not? Because all the parties and the trade union organisations were united together on the platform in Piazza Maggiore, "against the violence of hooligans and provocateurs who break shop windows" and "to show the deepest solidarity with the forces of law and order."

I felt sick when Francesco was killed. But afterwards I felt even worse. My bosses are self-avowed Fascists (they go and have dinner with Almirante, the fascist party national secretary, when he's passing through Bologna), and recently they sacked a girl because she had taken part in a strike Well, on Wednesday afternoon my bosses closed the shop and went on the demonstration!

When I suggested timidly that they students would beat them up if they recognised them, they replied: “We've got nothing to worry about, the trade union stewards will look after us!"
I phoned Radio Citta, which is a democratic radio station, to say how angry and ashamed I was to see bosses like mine together in a demon­stration with all the parties, including the Communist and the Social­ists, against the students.

While I was speaking to them, I started crying, because I didn't know what to do about this horrible situation (by the way, they didn't put me on the air, because they were afraid the police might do something to them). Then I heard about the Sit-Down ... and about the big march. In spite of the Trade Unions trying to block the thing, thousands of workers came into Via Rizzoli, and this gave me the courage to join the march along with the others.

I don't belong to any political organisation, but I'm enclosing some money for the Lotta Continua newspaper, because I don't want to go on demonstrations with my bosses. They just defend their shop windows, their millions, and their police .... but I don't want students and workers to be killed any more just because they are struggling
for their rights.