Occupy Rome – one week after

One week after the now (in)famous Roman 15th October that ended up on worldwide headlines as “the only protest of the Occupy movement that ended in violence and riots”, and here we all are reading and writing about it.

Submitted by Italy Calling on October 23, 2011

At the end of the protests 70 people had been injured, and 12 arrested during the riots in Piazza San Giovanni. All of the arrestees are young and have no previous criminal record, like the ones arrested for the events of December 14 last year (all consequently released without charge). The following days several social centres and private houses were raided by the police (in search of black hooded sweaters, no doubt). Some MPs suggested the re-introduction of anti-terrorism laws that haven’t been used in Italy since the 70s. Rome’s Mayor banned any demonstration in central Rome for a whole month, excluding sit-ins (cos they look nice, I suppose, you know, it’s good for the tourists).

The Italian media, forever allied with one or the other political side (whoever pays them), did nothing but write what was most convenient to them. Without much difference between rightwing and leftwing press, the press called the “violent” protesters all sorts of names, and called for repressive measures worthy of a country plunging into dictatorship…ooops, but that’s what we are, sorry! On the other hand, some of the more “socially aware” articles were all about how the violent protesters “ruined the day”, stealing it from the peaceful protesters and turning it into their own battle with the police. A lot of the protesters have also been writing on their blogs and networks. Some were very scared and pissed off about getting caught up in a situation they didn’t want to be in; others were disappointed and critical of the behaviour of some of the protesters; some others were happy about the resistance in Piazza San Giovanni, and the birth of a new, angry generation.

The Black Bloc has become one of the most abused expressions of recent years, with people talking about it as if it was some kind of mythological monster. Nobody knows what it looks like, but it’s SCARY! It’s hairy and has got huge eyes, huge sharp teeth, and huge hands…!! Apparently, according to new intelligence revealed by some of the most illuminated Italian politicians, the Black Bloc activists would have been trained in the NO TAV protests, and, (of course!) IN GREECE. Oh, and they’re probably linked to Al Qaeda, and they have weapons of mass destruction. Most of the Italian public seems to think the Black Bloc is either made of a) random vandals, possibly neofascist; b) anarchists; c) police infiltrators (or a mix of the 3, pick your own flavour!). It does seem very plausible indeed, looking at pictures and videos, that a significant number of infiltrators were there. They are very easily recognisable, because even the most expensive intelligence training could never teach them how to dress like “proper” Black Bloc. I don’t find it surprising, and I really don’t understand why people still do…remember the piece I wrote for Cossiga’s death, remember that strategy? Those same strategies have been put into practice in Italy for decades, not to say in the rest of the world (with USA showing the way). Using this argument completely dismisses the rest of the “violent” protesters and their motivations. Back to the same devastating debate that split the Genoa Social Forum and the movement after the G8: violence vs non-violence. There would be so much to say about this that I, or nobody else for that matter, couldn’t summarise in a blog’s article. If I may, I’d like to suggest the reading of this little illuminating book: “How non-violence protects the State” by Peter Gelderloos. Also, regardless of whether one approves of it or not politically, it’d be good to know what the Black Bloc actually is and how it started – here’s an introduction written by a radical site (scroll down under the menu).

Amidst all the communiques and articles post-15 October, I’ve chosen once again a piece from the Wu Ming blog, written by Wu Ming 3, who wasn’t able to attend or follow the October 15 protests because he had a heart attack on the same day (by the way; no, I’m not being paid by the Wu Ming, it’s just I find the stuff they write very interesting). I liked this piece because it’s a really good example of an art long-forgotten, nearly extinct, called irony; also, compared to other stuff written by this or that side, this, having been written by someone external, gives an interesting, new perspective:

[i](…) Is a heart attack fascist? No, wait, is a heart attack nihilistic? Fuck, it wanted to kill me! Bastard! It’s clear as crystal that a minority of wankers occupied my arteries, while the rest of my blood kept marching peacefully and joyfully through my organs.

Here’s my first point: organs don’t easily tolerate, manage, and absorb, conflicts. Societies, groups of humanity, communities, are NOT organs. They are entities just as complex, which could, if trained, manage conflicts better, or even turn them into a main development factor. But let’s go back to those bastards: where did they spring up from, who the fuck called them? What were they doing in my house? Furthermore, with homicidal intentions towards me. Little shits. Let’s exterminate them all. Let’s take photos of them and get them arrested.

Well, I’d say that, actually, we could reflect on it. Because there is a history. There are causes that stretch way back, and others that interact in the here and now. Because, unlike what we’re made to believe, the wait is long, and often we pay the price much later. But we always pay it. And we, like it is sacrosanct, don’t really want to pay for the crisis. Even if we know it won’t be like this, that it isn’t like this.

So what? Usual question: what remains? Here’s my very useless and very partial hypothesis. There are no glasses. Nor empty, nor full, nor half. Things move, and will carry on doing so. Under no circumstance we’ll be able to manage them. But each one of us can do their own part, without resigning to doom. And working on this means we need to accept that the wait is long, very long.

I’ve already written it here on other occasions. The catastrophe has already happened. And before being political and economic, it was cultural. Whoever holds things close to their ‘heart’ (ha!) must multiply spaces like this one – precious not just for the content, but especially for their methods, attitude, pedagogy (it sounds like a swear word). Places that invite confrontation, discussion, personal growth and sharing. And conflict, fuck. Even ours, especially ours. And not just on the web. Actually, conflicts are needed especially outside. They are too scarce still.

But things are moving. October 15 is in the past already. We need a new vocabulary – emotional and political. A new generation won’t be enough to take on the task. But we could be proud to be the ones who started it. Occupy everything. Take care.

Sources: this Wu Ming blog post, plus anything I’ve been reading over the last week.

If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Malcolm X

Written/translated by Italy Calling, originally published here.