In the last few days I’ve read, listened to and watched a lot of stuff about the student protests in Italy, and especially the huge demonstrations of 14th December, when Rome was set on fire by thousands of beautiful, angry youth. With few exceptions, the Italian media have been doing what they do best: Attacking, twisting, distorting, diminishing, LYING. No surprise there. I can’t see a reason why the Videocrat and his court would like to have angry people on the streets, unless it was the new generation of Black Shirts they’ve been breeding during the last few years. There have been attacks from other sides too, unfortunately. Roberto Saviano, the writer of the bestseller “Gomorrah” (you’ll have heard of the movie!), wrote a letter to the “left-wing” newspaper La Repubblica, in which he attacked the students using the same old refrain we already know: The police’ violence was horrible, but it was the violent protesters’ fault. A few black sheep ruined the whole peaceful movement, and so on…
Over here, I’ve also read a lot of stuff. Some appalling, some good. I’ve been thinking though: All this brilliant analysis…where does it come from? Where is the students’ voice? Cos this is their moment, their protest, their revolution. With all due respect to the good ones out there, but I don’t really want a journalist or an “intellectual” (do they even exist anymore?) to tell me what’s going on. I want the people who are doing the revolution to tell me what’s going on; I want to hear what they’ve got to say about themselves and what they’re doing.
So…of all the brilliant stuff I found, I decided to translate this article published by the Red Net (Network of Self-managed Universities). There was lots of stuff to choose from, but this one struck a chord with me. I felt these were the voices that I wanted to give space to. No big words, no pretence, no intellectualism. These are the voices of the streets.
“The 14th December has been an historical day. After years of passivity and resignation thousands of young people decided to take their future back and get out on the streets to vote no confidence – against this government and all the governments that during the years have contributed to a methodical destruction of social rights. For us students, to get out on the streets that day was an obvious choice. Protests against the Gelmini reform without awareness of the bigger picture would have led us to make the same mistakes we made during the Wave of 2008. It is only the extension of the struggle beyond the single reform that can bring real change.
There were more than 100,000 people at the demo. Despite the criticism of politicians and self-proclaimed intellectuals (Saviano’s article is a significant example), we know that the reality is very different. We were there. We were behind the shields. We were there with our helmets, demanding the future that they’re taking from us day after day. And we clearly remember that, every time we charged the police vans in Via del Corso, and every time the vans had to draw back, the whole Piazza del Popolo applauded. People who weren’t on the front line, people up on the Pincio watching what was going on, people on the obelisk: They were applauding, they were all feeling that moment was theirs too.
We’re not “experts of the revolt” or “ultras of chaos” as we’ve been defined. We’re not naive kids in the hands of bad teachers either. We simply are thousands of precarious workers that work in restaurants and call centres for nothing; we are factory workers in redundancy; we are students who pay more fees everyday and are losing access to the right to study; we are unemployed graduates doing endless unpaid placements described as “training opportunities” but which are nothing else than exploitation. If you want to give us all the label “Black Bloc”, allright then. We were all Black Bloc. They dismissed the riots as outbursts of unjustified violence, but this is not the case. That rage came from the realisation that despite protests and mobilisations our requests were still being ignored; that the streets, the only true expression of our needs, were being militarised, blocked up, repressed.
During that day many people were stopped and arrested. Today 22 of the arrested are free and 1 is under house arrest. Despite the magistrates’ decision of releasing the arrested and fixing the initial hearings for February, the MP Maroni declared he didn’t agree with the decision. According to him, those arrested should have been kept locked up until the Parliament’s final decision on the Gelmini reform, to prevent them from committing the same crimes again. We’d like to remind Maroni and everyone else that before 14th December there had already been a widespread and radical mobilisation, and that against 23 people arrested, there still would have been thousands outside who haven’t exhausted their energy and rage in Piazza del Popolo.
We have stopped being spectators, we demand to be protagonists!
This is only the beginning!
Rights are not given, they are TAKEN!”