Sally and I made some planning mistakes preparing for this trip to Europe. One was coming to Rome in October, which it turns out is high season here. The streets of Rome may be filled with rubble, but you can hardly see it for all the tourists standing on it. We failed in two tries to see the Vatican Museum, detered by estimated 3 hour lines to get in and decided we’d seen a lifetimes’ worth of Madonnas with child already.
Several days ago, while battling our way out of the Coloseum crowds, we passed by a wallposter announcing a Communist Party demonstration on Saturday, October 20th. We always like to take in a demonstration while here and that seemed to be a good way to avoid the tourists. But we didn’t notice the time and didn’t encounter another mention of the event, so we dropped in on a neighborhood Communist Party office to ask. The little old men inside didn’t speak English – or Spanish or French – but got the idea – 2 p.m. at the Piazza della Republica. They didn’t raise our expectations. We actually predicted it would be 40 such little old men on a street corner waving a tattered red flag.
As we approached at the appointed hour, there was indeed a red flag. In fact, there were thousands and thousands of them as far as you could see, a breathtaking sight. We found a guy carrying several of them and he led us through the dense throng to a truck where they were handing them out – free – along with pvc pipes to raise them on.
This wasn’t 40 people or even 40,000. This was FUCKING HUGE!!! The Piazza is vast and it was covered with people, all kinds of people. There was a virtual sea of red flags as far as you could see in every direction. Estimates of the number of people ran into the hundreds of thousands, but without a helicopter, it would be hard to say because you could only rarely see the edges of the crowd. The spirit was amazing – joy, strength and comraderie oozed from the throng. Large trucks laden with sound systems boomed out music to energize the crowd – the Red Hot Chili Peppers rockin’ out “give it away, give it away, now”, raggae drum circles with massive dreadlocks flying, techno-rock with throbbing masses, the great Cuban ballad “Guantanamera” and more. There was every kind of people, all ages, races and cultures, except those that wore suits. There were not just a few dozen wide banners emblazoned with slogans, there were hundreds, from countless leftist groups from all over Italy. Rows of literature tables and radical t-shirts for sale and another leafletter every few yards. But more than anything, there were red flags – tens of thousands of them proudly emblazoned with hammer and sicle or the image of Che, some with marijuana leaves or PACE rainbow flags or Cuban flags. They stood out in a steady breeze as far as you could see. We wept.
Finally we started moving down broad boulevards to some unknown to us destination. We walked slowly along for over two hours before arriving at another vast piazza where a large stage had been erected a huge throng assembled and speeches were already taking place. We listened to a few of them and crowd watched for awhile, but we were by this point exhausted by burned up adrenaline and walking, so we started back in the direction we had come. It was hard. The march, curb to curb, was still coming, people chanting, sound trucks blaring, flags flying as far up the street as you could see. We fought our way up this human river for at least 10 more blocks before we saw the end, marked by a single line of Italian police, followed by an array of street sweeping machines.
We have never seen a demonstration in all our lives like this one and never expect to see another one to compare. The culture of the Left here is so broad and deep and strong, we are humbled and astounded. We’ll post photos when we get home and can download them into our computer.
David and Sally Hamilton
Here is the background to what happened in Italy yesterday. Sally and David were part of something gigantic.
Demonstration in Rome against social reforms
Oct 20, 2007, 15:31 GMT
Rome – Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Italy’s radical left and communist parties gathered in Rome on Saturday to demonstrate against reform of the country’s pension and social security systems.
Demonstrators also sought to pressure Romano Prodi’s centre-left government to ensure creation of more secure jobs.
Franco Giordana, head of the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), said up to 700,000 people had taken part in the march. He stressed however that the demonstration was not against the government.
Italy’s leftists especially object to the so-called Protocol for Reform of the Welfare State, which however is supported by the country’s unions.