ESF Arrest Update

Nov 21, 2001

21 November 2002

The two women who were arrested and imprisoned last Friday have now been put under house arrest. The rest are in solitary confinement in high security jails. Apparently they are all in good spirits. Under Italian law, they can be held for ten days (until next Monday) before they have to be committed for trial and a judge is called upon to decide whether they can be released or not.

Last Friday there were several spontaneous protests throughout Italy, and on Saturday there were demos in about 30 cities, with 30,000 in Rome and 20,000 in Naples – the main slogan being “Siamo tutti sovversivi” (we’re all subversives) – as they have been accused under a fascist law of “subversion against State authority”. Tomorrow (Friday) there will be a “southern Social Forum” in Cosenza, and on Saturday a national demonstration – again in Cosenza.

The level of mobilisation has been remarkable. At a meeting of the Genoa city council seven councillors suddenly stood up, with their wrists handcuffed, shouting “Siamo tutti sovversivi”. Four of them were Rifondazione, two were from the DS (Blairites), and one was Green Party. Such is the strength of the movement that Pietro Folena (roughly Robin Cook), went to visit those in jail. Could you ever imagine a movement so strong that Robin Cook goes to meet a leading member of GR, accused of “subversion/terrorism”, who was being held in a high security jail?

The popularity of the movement has been revealed in a recent opinion poll – which also explain s why the authorities are so desperate. In 2001 66% of Italians thought the movement was a “positive” development. Immediately after Florence this has risen to 70%, and what is worrying for the government is that 58% of people who vote for the centre-right coalition parties define it as “very or quite positive”.

No part of the movement has drawn back from supporting those arrested. Even the Archibishop of Cosenza has defined the accusations as “exaggerated”. The Mayor of Cosenza has said that she will set aside council buildings for free, to enable demonstrators to sleep overnight.

The main focus is on the best known leader, Francesco Caruso, so the last word to him – who manages to smuggle out statements via the relatives, MPs and radical priests who are allowed to visit him. There have been some CGIL flags seen at some of the pickets held outside the jails, and Caruso has been very strong in his support for FIAT workers fighting to keep their factory open in Termini Imerese. One of the accusations they face is of having been responsible for organised violence in Genoa. Caruso answers:

“They’re reading things back to front, so in Genoa the attacks were launched by demonstrators against the police? So maybe in New York the Twin Towers smashed into two airplanes? Perhaps it was us who tortured policemen in the barracks, naturally after we had arrested them? And it is the poor around the world who provoke hunger in rich people, and it is the sea which pollutes petrol, and children who kill Bush’s Marines.”

As regards the future, he says: “We’ve got to move forward – you can’t stop a rising tide – hopes and dreams will defeat injustice and the arrogance of the system. They can arrest us, but our ideas are spreading, growing and moving. There is a famous poem by a Chilean poet Pablo Neruda which says ‘they can rip up all the flowers, but they can’t stop the Spring’… I might be locked up inside, but in my heart I’m with the workers of Termini Imerese and their families, and with my disobedient comrades. And I’ll be with them throughout this Saturday’s demonstration in Cosenza. Keep fighting: and together we’ll keep racing towards freedom.”

Tom Behan

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