Feature

Italy: An ‘Occupy’ movement turns bloody

In more than 80 countries, people marched in solidarity with New York’s Occupy Wall Street without incident, except in Italy, where the protest turned violent.

What is the matter with Italy? asked Stefano Folli in the Milan Il Sole 24 Ore. Almost every other developed country in the world managed to hold peaceful demonstrations last weekend in solidarity with New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement. People marched without incident in more than 80 countries, including Germany, Japan, Brazil, and Mexico. Only in Italy did the protest turn violent. In what has become a “wearying ritual,” the street protests turned into “guerrilla warfare,” as black-clad youths torched cars and hurled Molotov cocktails and bricks through bank windows. They even vandalized an 18th-century church, dragging a statue of the Virgin Mary out into the street and smashing it. Such “atrocious images” embarrass Italy before the world.  The rioters were a small minority, said Marco Rossi Doria in the Turin La Stampa. Occupy Rome drew a remarkably diverse group of protesters, including doctors and teachers and other public servants, the laid-off, illegal immigrants, and many university students. They came “from north and south,” the young and the old, all united in protest against corporate greed and the forces of international finance. The mood was “positive, not bitter” until, in an obviously planned assault, small groups of anarchists dressed in black and wearing motorcycle helmets launched their assault. Fortunately, the police “did not attack,” nor did any of the peaceful demonstrators join the mayhem. That encouraging fact is borne out by the casualty toll: More than 100 police injured and only 30 anarchists—several of whom had fingers blown off by their own bombs. This, then, was not an action by the majority of leftist protesters, but merely by a few hundred hard-core extremists.

It’s all very well for the Left to condemn the violence, said Mario Cervi in the Milan Il Giornale. I’m sure they “think themselves quite sincere” in their denunciations of the “black bloc” rioters. But imag­ine what would have happened had a single police officer fired a bullet in self-defense. The Left would have screamed police brutality. After all, they have taken Carlo Giuliani, the demonstrator who was killed in the anti-globalization protest at the 2001 Group of Eight meeting in Genoa, and held him up as a martyr and hero. Yet he was shot only after he attacked police, proving he was as violent and wrong-headed as the rioters last weekend in Rome.

Let’s call them what they really are: “terrorists,” said Paolo Bassi in the Milan La Padania. It’s far too easy to merely shrug and say that all demonstrations lead to violence. Not true. These “scenes of civil war” break out not at every political event, “but only when the squares are filled with certain people. Their people.” It’s beyond ironic that the Left has always labeled the right-wing Northern League party “dangerous, extremist, and subversive”—yet in 20 years, not a single act of violence has been traced to the right-wingers. It’s always the leftists. “Italy has tolerated these degenerates for far too long.”

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