L’Aquila: “the people of the wheelbarrows” back to the streets!

Extraordinary participation at the demonstration called in L’Aquila (Abruzzo) on 16th June. At least 20,000 people present occupied the local motorway for longer than an hour. The demonstration was organised after the Government announced a deferment of tax payments till January 2011 for the city residents, hit by a tremendous earthquake in April 2009.

“Even if the conditions of our country force us to a politics of small steps, we will take all those necessary steps, however small, to find solutions for the people of L’Aquila and for all Italians” declared Gianni Letta, Under Secretary to the Council of Ministers, in a press conference at Palazzo Chigi (residence of the Prime Minister) in early June. The speech did nothing to convince the residents of L’Aquila, who decided to protest once again to obtain a permanent suspension.

16,000 of the 70,000 inhabitants are unemployed or redundant, and about 4,000 traders of the historical centre are still in limbo. “We don’t even have money to pay back the emergency expenses already made, and no measurement has been taken to deal with our economic crisis. Many residents are still forced to live outside L’Aquila, with no sign of a possible return” – reads the communiqué released by the demo’s organisers.

And then there’s the matter of reconstruction. The rebuilding hasn’t started yet, and the National Antimafia Bureau is investigating the C.a.s.e. project (the supposedly anti-seismic and ecological new blocks of houses). The project is under fire for paying undocumented costs and a series of failures in the construction of the buildings that fall short of the specifications. In short, Berlusconi’s houses fall to pieces, as documented by Council engineers in March of this year.

L’Aquila’s dramatic situation could get even worse now that “due to so many other serious problems,  the country’s attention is lessening, despite the extraordinary solidarity shown by many Italians”, according to L’Aquila’s Mayor in a letter sent to local and national newspapers to invite people to join the demonstration. The demonstration aimed to “tell all Italians the tale of a city that isn’t there anymore”.

Extracts from the leaflet distributed at the demo by the 3e32 @ casematte Committee:

“We are back on the streets, we are many and we are stronger than those who’d like us to stay on our knees. On the streets again, to oppose the mechanism that strangles and blackmails us. The latest tax deferment is just another joke. Having to think every 6 months about paying a large bill for back-taxes wears you out. We don’t even know yet how and when we should pay, and this contributes to the already existing uncertainty of our super-precarious lives. (…)

This strategy of systematic production of uncertainty has to stop. We demand the right to a relative tranquillity that will allow us to plan our lives, to invest our time and energy on what we really want and need. We want to know how much money there is for this area, where it is, when and how it will be given. (…)

We don’t want more welfarism. We know it’ll be hard and we want to be put in the position to be able to get back off our knees on our own, without having to constantly wait for State intervention. We are fed up of being treated like unlucky earthquake stricken people. We are people of flesh and bones, with our bodies and our wishes, we are free and thinking individuals and, because we are thinking, we are against fascism, xenophobia, homophobia and segregation. We know very well we are in a particular situation, but still similar to many other hardship situations. We won’t give in, we won’t lower our heads, we won’t accept privileges and injustices.  (…)

There isn’t a plan for the city. L’Aquila currently doesn’t even have a square. The army is still annoyingly on the streets, making it look like we are at war. The territory has been permanently revolutionised without urban planning.  Everyone is going around like crazy people looking for lost places and things. The (re)construction anticipated by the C.a.s.e. project is void of cultural and social meaning.

Original articles available on Italy Indymedia. Translated by Italy Calling.

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