Open letter by Italian CSOs published by Il Manifesto on 12/11/2021 (unofficial translation from Italian)
We learn with concern of the directive issued by the Ministry of the Interior on 10 November which, motivated by the intention to limit demonstrations relating to the health measures adopted by the government, in fact allows on the basis of discretionary criteria to prohibit all protests, including those relating to any other issue, within the city’s historic centres and shopping streets.
In recent months, many workers, students and citizens have taken to the streets to demand a fair exit from the pandemic crisis and a general change of direction. We have done this in the climate strikes, in the squares for work and in the anti-fascist marches, and we have done it in safety, respecting the measures in place to protect the health of all, focusing on the importance of collective care. In the demonstrations throughout the country we have demanded the right to treatment and vaccines for all, against the unequal management that characterises the vaccination campaign at global level, against the deficits that have brought our National Health Service to its knees. Today we need to get out of the social and health crisis we are in, but we need to do so by focusing on rights, people, the fight against inequalities and social injustice.
The text of the directive explicitly states that the measures concerning “sensitive urban areas”, as well as the ban on rallies, “may be applied to public demonstrations related to any other issue” (other than those related to health measures), and that “the evolution of the phenomenon related to the protest for the emergency measures prompted by Covid-19 makes it necessary to implement them urgently and immediately”. A measure of this kind carries a very high risk of restricting the constitutional right to freedom of expression of dissent and ideas, even in recognition of the worrying epidemiological situation.
Restricting the right to demonstrate in this way is a serious attack on democracy, at a time when the spaces for debate and listening by institutions have already been severely curtailed, particularly during the acute phase of the pandemic. The protection of commercial interests cannot be a further cause of the contraction of democracy; moreover, it is difficult to understand why the right ‘to work and mobility of citizens’ should be protected in the centre and not outside it, nor why the same health measures should only be applied in certain parts of the city.
Today more than ever, politics cannot be reduced to managing public order in an authoritarian and repressive manner, but must question the real answers to be given to the population: to those who work, to those who have lost their jobs, to those who are studying, to the new generations who see their future increasingly hanging by a thread, to those who are paying the consequences of the pandemic crisis. Those who demonstrate are the interpreters of these gaps to be filled and it is the task of politics to deal with them and not ignore or repress them.
As social organisations, movements, trade unions and civil society, we appeal to politicians and institutions to take an immediate step back and not to attack the right to demonstrate.
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