The Italianist

Things That Happen in Italy

Posts Tagged ‘police

Black Bloc, the Invisible Hand

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We’ve all seen what happened in Rome last Saturday. What was meant to be a peaceful demonstration, displaying empathy to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, turned into destruction of the city and violent clashes between the police and the protesters. Those responsible for it, surprise surprise, are still them: the Black-Bloc.

A quick Wikipedia search reveals that ‘Black Bloc’(BB) is not a group, an organized anarchist faction, etc., but is “a strategy”. Which in itself says something very interesting: being a BB means to wear black clothes, and a black helmet. It is easy to be a BB. In Italy, BB have a particularly strange vampire-like behaviour: they sleep for most of the time, and then suddenly wake up at anti-government protests.

We saw this in Rome last week as well. Suddenly, out of the blue (of the black?), the BB appeared and brought havoc into the protest: the police, eventually, broke in, the protesters (all of them) were dispersed. Outraged condemnations, from politicians, of the violence immediately followed everywhere on the media. Even those usually wary of joining the current government, have supinely endorsed the anarchist-plot argument. Sadly, also IlFattoQuotidiano, probably the only readable newspaper in Italy, has decided to stop asking questions, and to serve the master instead. In the last 24 hours, the frustrated reader has had to go through a series of embarassing fairy tales about anarchists who ‘trained in Greece’, ‘trained at NO TAV protests’: a further depressing symptom of how bad information in Italy is. I should stop now with this, but i is worth repeating it, those of IlFatto have turned into mercenari too.

Anyway, apparently two hundred thousand people took part in the protest.The BB were between 300 and 500. Of them, TWELVE have been arrested by the police. That is 12 individuals, nothing more than that.

Twelve is a pretty small number. It’s basically a football team, plus the referee. Not a great reaction from the police, really – some have pointed out. Why did the police not intervene more heavy-handedly? Why did this thing happen only in Italy? why were the other OWS protests around the world kept under control by the police? why such a failure, given that the police now claims the destruction was caused by ‘the usual suspects’, anarchists already well known?. These questions briefly appeared on some Italian media shortly after the riots, yet they were quickly replaced by stuff like that appeared on IlFattoQuotidiano. So the question now is: why no one asks these questions anymore?

Here is one hint. Please read.

Here’s another hint. Please watch.

The Italian government today declared its intention to crack down on ‘the anarchists’ (even if they are not black). It is expected that the lord-major  of Rome will today declare a one-month ban on street protest in the capital. This, let’s make itclear, in the interest of security, and of no one else.


Written by TheItalianist

18/10/2011 at 10:55

Dreaming of a White Christmas

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A small town  in Northern Italy, Coccaglio, has been working towards realising a so-called “White Christmas Plan“. The plan does not rely on singing Xmas songs under the snow, but on sending police door-to-door to look for illegal immigrants. The operation is due to end on 25th December, hence the ‘Christmas’ bit of the plan’s name.

The plan is part of a ‘security’ program enforced by Roberto Maroni, the Italian  Home Minister famous for his red glasses and his sympathy for ‘civic police’. Coccaglio’s councillor for safety, Claudio Abiendi, explains how “Christmas is not a celebration of hospitality, but of Christian tradition, of our identity”. Hence, the ‘White’ bit of the plan’s name.

Written by TheItalianist

21/12/2009 at 09:08

On Marrazzo, and Italian Prisons (again)

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The blog has suffered from a technical failure in the past week, so it’s had a hard time in keeping apace with the events. While I’m still waiting for a new battery for my laptop, I think there are two important updates that at least should be mentioned.

Some time ago, the blog covered one of the latest scandal in Italy, about a(nother) prominent politician, Piero Marrazzo, involved in a story of drugs and prostitution. The prostitute he was found with at the time, a Brazilian transsexual called Brenda, was found dead yesterday. The news arrive in coincidence with the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which makes the all story even more upsetting.

This is Brenda:

Brenda died suffocated by a fire in her house. The unofficial version has it she got drunk, and fell asleep. She was taking antidepressants, and some friends from the transsexual community said she was thinking about leaving Italy. The house door was locked from the inside; doctors found no signs of violence on her body; it is not yet clear how the fire started. The only thing which is certain is that Brenda does not live anymore.

And cannot talk anymore.

Another sad follow-up to an earlier post on this blog. On last 6th November, Giuseppe Saladino, 32-year old from Parma, breached the house arrest to which he had been sentenced for stealing coins from parking meters. He had been condemned to one year and two months prison. It is somewhat surprising that the Prime Minister did not highlight the judges’ incompetence in jailing people in this case.

It seems that, on the eve of the 6th November, Giuliano breached the terms of the house arrest. He did not go anywhere far, in fact he went for a walk. Immediately the police caught him, and brought him to jail. That’s very bad for him, because the house arrest, if breached, is automatically turned into jail arrest.

Fifteen hours later, the mother receives a phone call, informing her that Giuliano had died while in prison. He had spent ONE night there. That was enough to kill him. A more detailed account of this story, in Italian, can be found here and here. Unfortunately, the death of Giuliano does not seem to have made it through the media abroad.

Here’s the only picture of Giuliano I managed to find:

Inquiries are taking place for both cases. Maybe, it will turn out that they were both cases of suicide. Most likely, in the case of Giuseppe it will turn out that the drug killed him, or anorexia: as it happened with Stefano Cucchi. As it will happen with the next one. An interesting discussion from The Guardian is here.

No one should get too worried about these incidents though. Let us always remember that Italy is still the country of freedom.

Written by TheItalianist

21/11/2009 at 13:48

Police Accountability in Italy

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A 31 year-old guy, Stefano Cucchi, is arrested on the night between the 15 and 16th October 2009 in Rome, for possessing a small dose of hashish. A week later, Stefano dies, while still in police custody. No explanation is given for his death. After 5 days, the family is allowed, eventually, to see Stefano’s body. After seeing him the family, decides to make public the images of his dead body. These are really scary pictures. They can be seen here.

It isn’t the first time that this has happened, in Italy. A person dies while in custody of the police (in the case of Stefano, it was the Carabinieri). The family wants to know how that could be possible. They are not allowed to ask. Stefano’s parents were never allowed to see him after his arrest. When he appeared in court, the day after being arrested, Stefano had bruises on his face. The medical service at the Court asked for the guy to be hospitalised before the trial, given the bad conditions in which they found him. He was in good state at the time of the arrest, 14 hours earlier. True, he had chronic underlying health problems, related to epilepsy, anorexia and drug use. But when he is sent to the Pertini hospital (after the Court’s decision to hospitalize him), he is discovered to have fractured vertebrae, ecchymoses over his body, a broken jaw . He eventually dies on the 22nd.

Why did he have fractures all over his body? The medical service at Regina Coeli Prison, where Stefano was taken after the arrest, said that “he accidentally had fallen from the stairs”.

His parents, Rita and Giovanni, have been denied the permission to see Stefano during the entire time in hospital: that is, until he died. On the 19th, they were refused to talk to the doctors. On the 20th, they were told they need a court permission which still had not arrived. On the 21 the permission arrived, but still required validation from the prison. On the 22nd, Stefano died, alone.

There was no abuse – the Carabinieri claimed after his death. He was epileptic, that’s why he died. The Italian Minister of Defence, Ignazio La Russa, was quick to praise  the loyalty and value of the Carabinieri: “I have no information to evaluate this case. However, there is one thing I am sure: the correct behaviour of the Carabinieri on this (i.e. Stefano’s) occasion.”

His optimism was, to some extent, counterbalanced by the Justice Minister Angelino Alfano, who announced today that an inquiry is to start “for an immediate in-depth examination”. Unfortunately, Alfano’s name is linked to the Lodo Alfano, the bill designed to (some say) protect the PM Berlusconi from a series of trials, following a series of crimes, that, according to some, he has committed in the last 15 years to build and preserve his empire. The bill has been recently rejected as violating the Italian Constitution. Some might remain unexcited in the face of Alfano’s plea for justice.

Sadly, the story of Stefano is not a new one. On 26th June 2008, Nikki  Aprile Gatti, 26 year-old from Avezzano, “committed suicide” in jail where he had been taken in connection to an inquiry over internet fraud. His mum never believed the suicide story, and has since then campaigned for the truth over what happened to Nikki. She has a created a lovely blog, where she writes of her pain for the loss of her kid and of updates about the inquiry.

Federico Aldrovandi, 18, from Ferrara, died in the early morning of 25th September 2005, killed by 4 policemen who had stopped him for a control. I say he was killed because the four policemen have recently been found guilty of manslaughter. This is Federico, before and after meeting them:


None of the four policemen is actually in jail. Yet, they are guilty.

Stefano, Nikki, and many others who have died in terrible conditions in italian prisons, without a trial, without permission to meet their family, but with broken bones: they are signals of a worrying tendency in Italy towards an increased lack of accountability for police behaviour. The media seem to be the only body to whom citizens can appeal nowadays to call police to account: there seems to be no official oversight bodies, and we know that the media in Italy are not completely free. The G8 in Genoa in 2001 was the first symptom of a change in police conduct: none of those responsible for the clear abuses against the protesters has eventually been condemned. Searching for an explanation of another “Italian anomaly”, I have found this book from Prof. Della Porta who analyses recent misbehaviour of Italian Police. The introduction highlights the relevance of the scarce police  accountability. Indymedia  has an interesting article that tries to interpret what’s going on inside italian prisons.

Until strong evidence is given for the death of Stefano Cucchi, it falls to us to be critical of police practices, and pressure them to account for their actions.

Written by TheItalianist

31/10/2009 at 00:44