The demonstrations that took place all over Italy on 14th November as part of a European Day of Action against austerity are already setting the pace of the new management of public order. In Rome in particular it’s been forbidden for months to get anywhere close to the political headquarters during demonstrations, despite the revocation of the decrees introduced last year by the Mayor to turn the whole of the city centre into a red zone.
The first repressive measures announced by the government straight after the riots and violence of 14th November are already being sketched out, drawing inspiration from the “social repression workshop” that started a few years ago around football matches and stadiums.
Restrictions on expression of dissent
The Interior Minister Cancellieri has declared her intention of extending the so-called “Daspo“, that is the current bans on attending sports events, to all public events and demonstrations. Rules around arrest are changing too, with the introduction of 48-hour arrests based on video evidence only. The “Daspo” will be applied to anyone with a criminal record, in essence sanctioning and criminalising people before they’ve even committed any offence. In terms of demonstration routes, already made complicated by the introduction of “red zones”, it will now be even more complicated to demonstrate anywhere if outside the rules and laws.
Protester hunting squads
Another measure concerns the introduction of “mobile squads of ready intervention”, based on the Greek police model adopted over the last few years. This tactic has been supported by the analisys made by the Digos and the police, in which they mention “a parallel system not connected with the demonstration organisers, that mixes with the protesters but pursues its own agenda”. That is, small mobile squads of special forces dressed in plain clothes who don’t follow the march or guard “sensitive targets” and block roads, but move along with the demonstration looking for the individuals or groups to neutralise.
In Greece the special riot police pursue an urban counter-guerrilla that allows them to surprise their opponents with sudden raids and attacks. They hide in corners and between cars and then suddenly spring out on vulnerable individuals or small groups of people to attack them. They have their own special Robocop-style equipment that includes helmets, gas masks, batons, smoke grenades and pepper sprays.
All of this is perfectly in line with the ongoing militarisation process of Italian police forces, that are now being trained to move and fight in urban environments and isolate targets like buildings, houses or entire neighboroughoods. It doesn’t seem a coincidence that the competitive entrance examinations to join the police force have recently been abolished, and now recruitment is solely from ex-soldiers with battlefield experience in the Balkans and Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The witch-hunt and police violence of 14th November have been such that Amnesty International Italy have released a statement as part of their ongoing campaign on police violence and human rights. Individuals and groups have started a campaing asking the government to introduce compulsory identification numbers for police officers, to which the police forces and their unions are firmly opposed. In Rome some police union and officers demonstrated against a colleague under investigation for aggravated assault on a teenager who was already injured and lying on the ground, while a few metres away teargas was being thrown at the peaceful protesters (mostly teenage students) from the Palace of Justice.