15. Giorgina Masi

Submitted by Steven. on August 14, 2009

Rome, May 12th 1977

Heavily armed police, flanked by the so-called "special squads" of long-haired, gun-toting cops in jeans masquerading as Left-wing demonstrators, ran amok in Rome's historic city centre today.

Peaceful, non-violent Radical Party (civil rights) members are savagely attacked. Bona fide journalists and photographers from bourgeois papers, and two members of Parliament (1 Radical and 1 Democrazia Proletaria) are thrown to the ground and kicked by police shouting "Filthy pigs!" Passers-by, including elderly women, are assaulted and beaten up.

Later in the afternoon the police open fire with pistols and rifles against unarmed demonstrators. A 19-year old school student, Giorgina Masi, feminist and Lotta Continua sympathiser, is shot dead and another girl is wounded by gunfire.

Yet another comrade killed by the police!

May 12th 1977 was the third anniversary of the historic 60% victory of the referendum that defeated the attempt to abolish the right to divorce: the Christian Democrats had been isolated with the neo-fascist Social Movement (MSI) and soundly beaten by the popular vote.

Under Italian law, citizens have a constitutional right to collect signatures for the abolition of any law. If they collect 500,000 signatures in 3 months, a referendum must be held, in which the popular vote decides whether to keep or abolish the law in question. The Radical Party, Lotta Continua and the Movement of Workers for Socialism (MLS) had been collecting signatures under this law for 8 referendums to abolish 8 laws surviving from the Fascist era, including the Concordat between State and Church.

Minister of the Interior Kossiga (as he is now spelt) had imposed a ban on all public demonstrations in Rome until May 31st. It was decided to defy the ban with a completely peaceful, non-violent signature-raising drive in Rome's central, picturesque Piazza Navona, on May 12th, to commemorate the divorce referendum victory. Many democratic bourgeois personalities besides the Radicals (in particular Socialist Party leaders and Members of Parliament) declared their support for the initiative. But the Communist Party did not.
So Kossiga maintained his ban .....

Police tactics during the afternoon were designed to widen the area of confusion and fighting as much as possible, so as to provoke an armed retaliation which would give the DC Government the pretext it needed to pass emergency laws - with the backing of the PCI. The aim would be to crush the present movement of students, marginal workers, unemployed etc completely, so that later they could attack the organised sections of the working class, dismantling those laws that still protect workers' rights: ie, prevent at all costs the formation of a united proletarian front .... keep the divisions .... defeat the antirevisionist elements ... and leave the PCI to control the rest.

The police tactics were confirmed completely by photographers who were at the scene. "Special esquadra" of police, illegally armed, and dressed casually as if they were demonstrators, acted as provocateurs ..... masked provocateurs wearing (illegal) handkerchiefs to cover their faces were photographed standing next to uniformed riot police ..... while the riot police themselves went berserk.

What needs to be said is that the Communist Party has backed the above strategy to the hilt. It is wrong to describe the PCI connivance with the DC as a "Historic compromise" - a compromise, after all, involves conceding some points in exchange for certain gains. The present operation should be called a "Historic Sell-Out" of all political rights- and economic advantages the working class has won in years of struggle - with nothing being gained in exchange. The list includes the right to demonstrate peacefully; the right to legal defence in a fair trial (3 lawyer comrades of the Red Help organisation have been arrested on trumped-Up charges of "complicity with their clients"); the freedom to publish (Bertani, a comrade publisher, was arrested, and material that he intended to publish about the events of Bologna was confiscated - the material that we publish in this pamphlet); the right to participate in constitutional initiatives such as the referendums); not to mention the right to live without being shot dead by police marksmen (maybe disguised as hippies... One "hippy-cop" was heard asking his uniformed colleague "How are we to distinguish us from them?" It is likely that this is why they chose to shoot at two girls for no policewomen were masquerading among the demonstrators).

These measures have gone hand in hand with others, of an economic nature. The cost-of-living sliding-scale allowance (included by law in all wage-packets) has been flattened; several annual public holidays have been abolished; price rises, closures and sackings continue unabated. All the PCI can mumble, is that these things are happening less quickly than they would otherwise. At the same time, however, the PCI leadership and apparatus actively promotes a witchhunt for "Autonomist bandits" whenever it meets any resistance that is not purely verbal .

May 13th 1977

Demonstrations are held all over Italy to protest against the murder of Giorgina Masi. In Milan about 20 "Autonomists" leave a march and open fire on a police squad, killing one cop (he died a couple of days. later). The Milan student movement immediately condemns this act as a provocation (two "Workers' Autonomy" militants are beaten up by student militants) and even the leaders of the Milan "Workers' Autonomy" group dissociate themselves. (Days later 3,000 PCI cadres and bureaucrats attend the dead cop's funeral.)

In Rome, during the afternoon, 4 local demonstrations are held in proletarian areas. Police attack two of these.

The PCI Central Committee issue statements attempting to confuse the issue, saying that Giorgina Masi died in "obscure circumstances" (implying that she might have been shot by comrades!) and condemning the Radical Party initiative as "triggering or encouraging provocation and violence". "No defence," says the PCI, "must be accorded to these initiatives" What a wonderful institution the Italian Communist Party is!

May 14th 1977
Rome. A peaceful sit-in by about 10,000 comrades (With a strong feminist presence) on the spot where Giorgina fell, is violently dispersed by police baton-charges.

May 16th 1977
Rome. 5,000 attend Giorgina's funeral. In spite of hypocritical "mourning" notices pasted up on street walls, the PCI newspaper gave no indication of when or where the funeral would be held, and no PCI delegation turned up for the event. Comrades refuse to carry PCI wreaths in the procession.

May 17th 1977
Rome. 3,000 Movement militants should an assembly in the University to decide what to do on May 19th - a one-time public holiday, abolished by the Union-Government agreement. The majority votes to demand a suspension of the ban on demonstrations, and, if accorded, to hold at rally at San Paolo Gate (scene of violent PCI-backed anti-fascist battles against the police in 1960 a point that comrades were at pains to stress!) If the ban was not suspended, a general People's Assembly would be held in the University. The minority, composed mainly of Autonomists, voted to go ahead with the demonstration at San Paolo Gate in any event. This would mean either going to be killed, or going armed. And since it was felt that working class opinion was not yet ready for armed conflict with the State, this proposal was defeated

May 18th 1977
Rome. The Autonomists call an Assembly of their own. About 1,000 attend. But nobody proposes going to San Paolo Gate, for they feel (and
they are) isolated in the movement. They decide to gather at the Unemployment Office for a public meeting, and at the University Teaching Hospital (an Autonomist stronghold).

Senator Pecchioli, head of the Communist Party's "State Affairs Commission" made a public statement. He said:

"The presence of plain-clothes policemen on public order duty during demonstrations is not only legitimate but also useful... a policeman on duty, even if he is in plain clothes, must not be unarmed...if he is recognised, he must be in a position to defend himself."

Cossiga, Minister of the Interior, had denied that any Special Squads were used on May 12th. Photographic evidence published by the mass circulation bourgeois daily Il Messagero showed he was lying. He said they were only armed with service pistols. More photos showed he was lying again. He said the police Special Squads did not use their arms. Dozens of witnesses testified that he was lying. What does the CP's Senator Pecchioli have. to say about this ... ?

He said:
"What does seem very necessary to me, on the political level, is that the Minister should draw the necessary conclusions from this regrettable episode."

Presumably this means that he should learn to lie more cleverly,. And as regards "self-defence" against an unarmed schoolgirl, the autopsy shows that Giorgina was shot in the back.

May 19th 1977
Milan. 5.00am. Bombs explode on the Underground subway.
Milan. 6.00am. Police baton-charge against workers picketing the University teaching hospital. An ANSA (bourgeois news agency) reporter is beaten by the police. (DC controlled radio station says he was beaten up by strikers!)
Rome. Unemployment Office and Teaching hospital are surrounded by police in full battle-gear. A humorous telegram is sent from the Movement to Kossiga:

"We are not holding any open-air demonstration today, so we will not be held responsible for any clashes that may take place between your "hippy-freak" cops and their ultra-armoured colleagues".

Thousands of armed cops surround the University in the afternoon, and stop, search, and identify all those who enter. 5,000 begin a general Assembly in the University. Comrades in the armed forces report a General Alert in Rome's Army barracks. Even tanks, apparently, were put on alert.

Finally, let's not leave the Church out of the picture. What did the Vatican have to say about the killing of Giorgina Masi? We quote from Vatican Radio on May 14th:

"The ban on public demonstrations in Rome is certainly a limitation on democratic liberties, but it is legitimate, and, in present circumstances, more than justified ...These people want to give a coup de grace to the State, which is on its knees, and when they see that the State still has the capacity to react, they cry "Police brutality" and try to pose as victims. It will be rather difficult for the ordinary citizen to feel pity for this sort of victim, if he has only once listened to their outrageous verbal violence or the continuous instigation that pours out day and night from their radio stations. If there are victims, these are to be found among the uncautious and the curious (Translator's note: I who go close to see what's happening, and get killed by stray bullets) and' amongst those young idealists or madmen who are sent into the streets to sow and reap death."

So much for Christian Charity!