| VENICE, Italy, October 16, 2011 - After years of protests against a corrupt and bungling Italian political system whose Prime Minister legislates for his own benefit, some of the protesters in Rome last Saturday apparently felt that walking through the capital with banners and slogans was a waste of time and energy.
The word went around about the necessity to resort to far tougher methods than the usual and endless ranting against financial greed, political ineptitude, the steady curtailing of peoples’ livelihoods and the sick plans to make the young and casually employed rather than the rich pay for the deficits and debts.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s ‘violence’ the Italian media, traditional serfs of any politics, defined the torching of four motor cars, a police vehicle and the smashing of a row of bank and shop windows as ‘a barbaric riot.’ In reality the Rome incident - part of a world-wide anti-Wall street protest against bail-outs for run-down banks and financial speculators – was barely a hiccup, at worst a belch.
The storm is still in the making. Rome, like New York, is a warning.
Our democratic systems insist all protesters, and there were 150,000 in the streets of Rome alone, must remain ‘pacific.’ This way couples can wheel prams along, clowns can frolic along the phalanxes of demonstrators and ‘leaders’ of various groups and political parties can address the crowd with their usual diatribe at the end of the day, not to placate peoples’ resentment but fan (false) hopes that permits those who marched to go home with a sense of achievement.
The stratagem is always the same. So are the results. That’s how democracy and liberal capitalism operates and survives.
But the system is faltering, not the greedy corporate tycoons and political heavyweights who see the rest of the world as their playground, the rest of humanity as the fools that can be hoodwinked, but the wall standing between the great mass of people and the few manipulating and exploiting them.
Suddenly, both in New York and in Rome, there were still those policemen and special forces who waded in with raised batons and hammered viciously away – but there was also a growing number of security forces who held back, who must have felt their fate too was on this side of the street and not with the mega-rich of the financial and political oligarchy.
Protesters in New York said some police officers helped them, talked to them kindly, even sympathized with their aims. Other officers remained as brutal as ever. In Rome where police have rarely shown compassion for protesters Saturday was different too. No bad clashes. Withdrawal often, rather then attack. So much caution in fact politicians who see police as a vital barrier between their physical integrity and angry mobs excessively praised the restraint of the security forces.
Of course the system fought back swiftly. In international diplomatic jargon those fighting allied forces or invaders of their land (the good guys) are labeled ‘terrorists’ (bad guys). Now on domestic issues politicians and their spin-masters in Italy have also coined a catch phrase to marginalize violent demonstrators. These ‘violators’ are called ‘black block’ a reference (just like Al Qaida) to an outdated group of young people who wore black clothing and black shawls over their faces years ago during demonstrations and often aggressively confronted police.
The black block, just as Al Qaida, has faded away to a few copycats but is superseded (just like Al Qaida) by equally minded ‘terrorists’ who see in violence the only means to achieve what peaceful negotiations and ‘bilateral dialogue’ has never managed to obtain.
Surely they too will soon be labeled ‘terrorists,’ hauled before courts, perhaps special courts, after being made to confess their plots to overthrow democratically elected governments who, so the bureaucrats insist, labor for the good of the people in the difficult time of a recession (which the system produced itself).
Bianca Berlinguer, the daughter of the late leader of the disbanded Communist Party of Italy and now a State-TV anchor woman illustrated just how much left and right have blended in this common vilification of the
troublemakers. At the end of her riot report she said: “The worst
part was: It deprived people of their right to peacefully demonstrate.”
So it did. It also deprived our crooked governments of the right to perpetuate their system by tolerating ‘peaceful’ protests as sacrosanct democratic rights. Trouble is: These peaceful protests - hundreds, thousands of them - have never brought about any change.
Uli Schmetzer was foreign correspondent for 43 years. He is the author of ‘Times of Terror’ ‘Gaza’ and ‘The Chinese Juggernaut’ all available on