Student Riots in Italy: a dispatch from Jasmina Tesanovic

When I myself was a protesting student, I remember vividly remembered the cold warning in the text by Pier Paolo Pasolini. He reminded us youngsters that the police we faced in the streets were also someone's children, that not all young people were fortunate enough to be in colleges rather than wearing uniforms, and that we should join all together against the general oppressor, the system, capitalism, the corporations, name it…

That was then, and this is now, and while the students and policemen still have the same interests, they are still on the opposite sides of the barricade. Austerity has driven Italy to its knees. Day by day the future of Italy's young people is vaporizing, and now the streets are flooded by torrential rains, to boot. Italian cities rocked by earthquakes might as well settle for witchcraft, rather than find responsible and competent government officials who can rescue the nation's casualties.

A Facebook comment from my Italian friend:

Is it possible that all these years every time there is a demonstration we have to expect the same song: attention to the provocateurs + protestors cruelly beaten by the police + poor policemen beaten by provocateurs = Am I missing something: Democracy!

In Torino, a 15-year old high school student posted on her Facebook a photo of two girls kissing in front of the heavily armed police. With these words: this is how we should face the forces of order!

She told me: those horrible Black Bloc destroy our attempts to do something peacefully, and we are not protesting only because there is no money left in our schools, but also as Europeans who understand that austerity program kills the students in rich as well as in poor countries.

Yesterday during the "No Austerity day in Europe", proclaimed by students and trade unions in major towns in Italy, the protests turned to riot and turmoil. In Torino, three policemen were injured, one badly. The number of students/citizens injured in Torino is not yet known. Chantings and peaceful legal manifestations degenerated into beatings and insults.

In Rome, along with a general strike of transportation, the Tiber flooded, paralyzing the nation's capital. Even on its best days Rome can barely move.

The targets of protesters were banks, public administration offices, and even the twelve-starred European flag, a flag so deliberately dull that it rarely attracts a passionate attention. The center of protests are the countries in crisis, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy…but even the well off northern countries are crippled by the Austerity, which is rapidly become a crisis much worse than the Crisis it was supposed to fix. Choked by Austerity, Europe is sliding into Recession again, and there's no sign that this approach will ever restore prosperity.

The word Austerity, that calm and bureaucratic term, is enough to cause panic in the streets of Europe now. National majorities know that it's a weapon against their own interests. Where is the "Austerity" for the one percent of the population dominating the economy? They don't apply any example of severe austerity to their own habits and aspirations. Secured in private jets, or within their high tech mentally-gated communities, they wonder why the streets grow slick with blood, sweat and tears.

This is something new in the world. It's rather like the alienation and anomie of the Industrial Age, but it's a new cybernetic detachment -- the atomized individuals of the Network Society, super-connected to screens, but failing to live and breathe together as a civilization. The Smart City shows its dark side as a gridwork of surveillance, as the peaceable consumers of the 1990s become a rabble to be kettled up!

United Europe just won the Nobel Prize for Peace. Where's the peace and Union from Austerity?


  1. It’s dangerous to call anyone who fights to defend themselves and others a “provocateur”.  Because you never know when you yourself will find yourself demonized according to your own definition.

    “Peaceful legal manifestations” are nice, but when they start seriously challenging the powerful, they won’t stay legal.  Politicians make sure of that. And when the people insist on their rights in spite of the law, it won’t be peaceful.  The police make sure of that.

    Not everyone is willing to sit calmly and sing songs while they take their beating, and I think that’s perfectly understandable.

    1. It might be an effective strategy in a country which is already unstable to provoke law enforcement and destroy property, but in a stable democracy, the black bloc simply makes a group look like uncivilized children who can’t even control their own baser instincts.

      If you aren’t willing to “sit calmly and sing songs”, stay home.

      1. but in a stable democracy

        And how can one tell if one lives in a stable democracy?  Ah yes, the absence of riots and civil disorder.  I sense a circular argument here.  At least consider that if people are rioting, it may be because they have realized they do not live in a democracy after all, and that the lives they thought they had earned are shockingly unstable.

  2. I really am not entirely sure what Ms. Tesanovic’s perspective is supposed to be here, but I do know that the cop all the way on the left looks ready to spend all day watching these protesters.

    1. Entertained cop is entertained.  Amid all the fun and games, it’s easy to overlook that one of the girls is giving the cops the finger.

  3. More people who “want stuff”, obviously. You know, things like health care, and a functioning society.

    More and more, the world governments seem to be  resembling the Umbrella Corp, in that they’ll let the world go to hell in order to maintain control.

  4. This will continue as long as the culture of resource hoarding persists. People with deep coffers only in the world to make them deeper then what, rot in the ground with no discernable contribution to humanity.

    1. How would you propose to change this?  Keep in mind that if you say “I’m going to take your stuff” or anything of that sort, I’m going to say “be sure to bring a lot of friends when you visit, because ammo is cheap”.  But if you’ve got something better than forcible confiscation of my stuff, I’m all ears.

        1. Isn’t taxation forcible confiscation of our stuff?

          Personally, I voluntarily pay taxes to pay for the social goods I receive.  However, if you are one hundred percent abstaining from the use of all publicly funded goods and infrastructure, including roads, police, fire departments, education, social security, etc. etc. ad nausem, then for you maybe it’s forcible confiscation.  If you in fact have ever used any of these things, it’s not forcible confiscation, it’s debt collection by force, which is slightly different.

          can I shoot them?

          Sure, absolutely, as long as you are willing to die for that privilege.

  5. The IMF reversed it’s position and admitted it made a mistake advising governments to implement austerity policies. Experience with the policies in the UK certainly bears this out. Nonetheless, governments continue to use the policies as both a justification and a blunt instrument to beat citizens with. Why? 

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