Italy: Peoples' power challenges Berlusconi


Having heard about the October 25, 2.5-million-strong, protest against the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi while in Florence, I was disappointed that the timing of my visit to Rome was off by just a few days.

However, when I actually spent my three days in Rome, each day I witnessed different forms of dissent to the government's attacks on the education sector.

On the first day, October 29, we came across two different groups of university students meeting to march through the streets against the neoliberal education law passed that day in parliament.

The other strong presence was the "polizi", — out in strong numbers with batons and shields, blocking walk-ways and roads that led to the protests focal point in Piazza Navona.

The following day, I headed to the Piazza del Popolo, the end point of a march by striking teachers and students. I arrived just before the marchers did, and they continued to arrive for the next four hours, overflowing into many surrounding streets.

Primary school children marched with their teachers, blowing whistles, chanting and jumping. High school students wrote slogans on their faces. University students intermingled with teachers from all different sectors.

The mood was upbeat and angry. Balloons, flags, banners and hand-made placards created a carnival-like atmoshpere.

On October 31, I came upon a scene that demonstrated the deep nature of the movement. Basilica San Paolo train station had at its entrance an open-air classroom from the local university.

Maths was being taught by a lecturer on a temporary whiteboard, around him stood students with pens and notebooks for their study, and a banner and leaflets to make their point.

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