U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome Italy anti-war demonstration in Rome

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Mat and Yvonne Say: No Dal Molin!

See below a guest article from Mat Callahan, who performed along with Yvonne Moore at No Dal Molin Festival in Vicenza.

Yvonne and I traveled to Vicenza Italy to participate in the second annual No Dal Molin festival. Dal Molin is the name of a civilian airport approximately 1.5 kilometers from Vicenza's historic city center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It is this airport that the US government wants to turn into a military installation to house several thousand members of the 173 Airborne Combat Brigade Team. Plans for the base were developed behind closed doors by the US and Italian governments sometime in late 2003 only coming to light in 2006. When residents of Vicenza began to question these plans they were met by evasion and threats first from the Berlusconi government and then by Prodi's short-lived one. But the questions persisted until an alarmed populace began to mount a determined resistance. This quickly developed into a mass movement involving people from every walk of life. Not only were they never consulted about a construction that would have a serious impact on their lives, the idea of yet another American military base (there are already three others in the area) raised profound questions about everything from Italian sovereignty to environmental degradation to the folly of war itself. In a climate of widespread opposition to America's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the generally bellicose rhetoric of the Bush regime the issue of Dal Molin became a rallying point for a wide range of people for whom enough is enough.

The festival itself was an enthusiastic expression of solidarity involving many local residents, young and old, in building and maintaining a large site that resembled a town. Two stages, a large kitchen and dining area, a radio station, information booths, book stalls and more were set up in a field donated by a local farmer much to the chagrin of those in authority who'd blocked usage of other public sites. Among the performers were world renowned dramatist, Dario Fo, widely influential journalists Marco Travaglio and Oliviera Beha and numerous musical and theatrical groups. In addition, a series of debates were held that engaged hundreds of people in lively discussion. Yvonne and I were warmly received by an appreciative audience. Clearly, the fact that I'm a US citizen was part of this. While most Vicenzans know that the American people and the American government are not the same it helps to have an actual American state this openly. Furthermore, it is of no small significance that people far and wide are making this struggle their own. It is no longer a local matter only concerning residents of Vicenza or, for that matter, Italy. What it has already achieved has repercussions far beyond one particular locale or country.

First of all, construction of the base has been effectively delayed for more than a year. Though the authorities constantly spread disinformation designed to convince people that the base will be built regardless of their protests this is by no means a foregone conclusion. The spirit of resistance has taken root and is spreading with unpredictable consequences for the US and Italian governments. There is mounting opposition in other parts of Italy including movements such as No TAV against hi speed trains, in Chiaiano near Naples against a hazardous rubbish incinerator, a committee against a new Italian base at Mattarello in Trento all gathering under a pact of mutual aid and lending support to the No Dal Molin campaign.

Second, and most important, this sustained, well organized expression of the popular will has provided an inspiring example of what happens when people unite. As one young activist told me, "What we see here in this movement is equality. All of us together for a common purpose." That this is a far cry from and far better than the phony "democracy" referred to ad nauseam in tedious speeches by politicians is obvious to anyone who has experienced it. The lesson is clear: only by mobilizing the citizenry can there be a citizenry. Only by making public demands in the public sphere can there be a public informed and empowered to act in the public interest.

That this lesson is not lost on the powers that be was made painfully obvious when the police attacked a peaceful demonstration which took place in front of Dal Molin on September 6, the day before we arrived. If the intended result was to intimidate the people of Vicenza then its failure was made immediately apparent by an hilarious "Oscars" ceremony held on September 10 in front of the world renowned Teatro Olimpico in the center of Vicenza. This satire included the screening of a short film (the winner of the "Oscar") showing the police assault. The rally was a spirited act of defiance as well as a means to build for a larger demonstration planned for Saturday, Sept. 13.

While we could not stay due to commitments in Switzerland, we received reports that approximately 8,000 people turned out in the pouring rain to march from the Teatro Olimpico to Dal Molin. In a short email, Stephanie Westbrook of US Citizens for Peace and Justice in Rome told us: "We left from Teatro Olimpico and marched out toward the site of the new base. Before leaving the center they put up a colorful cardboard tower made by the No Dal Molin children to see if riot police would charge in and tear it down...Started raining half way through. We put up another tower at the site of the new base. 200 police in riot gear inside the fence, but this time they stayed 30 meters away. The No Dal Molin Fanfara Band led us in music, plus music and speakers from truck. Much talk about police violence the previous Saturday, and the upcoming referendum (Oct. 5). Calls for resignation of police chief. Most demonstrators arrived at festival. Main tent packed. We were all soaked but in good spirits."

The referendum Stephanie refers to is to enable the citizens of Vicenza to decide the future of Dal Molin. Not surprisingly, Berlusconi has stated that this will have no bearing on the actions of the central government. Apparently, his definition of democracy is passive acceptance of whatever he and his cronies say or do. But for the people of Vicenza any mandate he might feasibly claim to have since being reelected Prime Minister does not include making Italy a colony of the United States. Nor can it overrule the inhabitants of a region who want to determine what happens where they live. Ironically, the Lega Nord that blusters so much about "independence" for the industrious northern Italians from their supposedly lackadaisical southern counterparts, has said nothing about Dal Molin. Apparently, independence for them means complying with the wishes of a foreign occupier, namely the US. But such confusion and corruption are common in politics these days, not only in Italy but throughout the world. What the movement in Vicenza offers is a genuine alternative; a challenge to all the parties and politicians without exception. While there is a diversity of views amongst those opposed to the base certain themes, continually articulated, form a growing consensus: an end to war and militarism, protecting and nourishing the environment-particularly air, water and food, and the vigorous defense of human rights. Guided by such principles this struggle gives all of us the opportunity to actively participate in changing the world. We want to express our gratitude for and solidarity with those making their stand in Vicenza. No Dal Molin!

Mat Callahan
www.matcallahan.com
www.matandyvonne.com

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