Vigil at Palazzo Chigi with Articolo 11 / Ostinati per la pace
April 21, 2005
Members of our group joined the Italians at their vigil outside Palazzo Chigi calling for the withdrawal of the troops and an end to the occupation. The following is Judith's account of the evening:
On Thursday, 21 April, I collected together my peace flag and two books (G. Machel’s The Impact of War on Children and UNESCO’s Women Say No to War – I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with them but I thought they would be nice to have along) went to Piazza Colonna after having received an email about the peace vigils being held by the Ostinati per la Pace. I had visited their website during the day and saw what they were doing: curiously I had not seen the date 21 April marked so I began to wonder, as I walked over towards the meeting place, whether or not I had gotten things right (I had not been aware of their ongoing vigil, and did not know until later that they don’t really post the dates). It was exactly 7:30, and I wondered how I was going to recognize them. Then I saw a huge crowd and felt relieved: there were lots of people standing right in front of the entrance to Palazzo Chigi, and there were even lots of journalists with TV cameras... This had to be my group. “Wow, great! We’ll be on TV! What a nice large crowd to hold a vigil with,” I thought to myself in silence. “First Michael Moore notices our participation in the March 19 anti war demonstration, now we’ll be famous.” But as I got closer to the group I realized that none of them had peace flags and I didn’t think they looked like obstinate people for peace... more like a milling crowd of tourists. And in fact they were tourists, and the media event at the Palazzo was probably linked to the Prime Minister’s resignation last week, and so I sort of hung around, and looked around, and waited around, and actually fifteen minutes can seem like a very long time when you don’t know what you’re looking for. The journalists and cameras and tourists began to thin out and there were soon only a few people, lots of seagulls overhead, and quite a few carabinieri, mostly in vehicles (security for Chigi).
So I figured that I had gotten the date wrong and thought maybe it would be better to go home, and so at about 7:45 or thereabouts I began walking away from Piazza Colonna. Only fate could have been guiding my steps, for I took a side street off the Corso which I’d never used before, and – lo and behold – I saw a bunch of peace flags, rolled up on somebody’s shoulder, walking towards the place where I’d just been. A lucky encounter! it was the Ostinati! I quietly trailed them to make sure they were really going back to the Palazzo Chigi (you never know... there might be other people having a demonstration) and that’s when we all sort of converged together in “the vigil sanctuary” (as I thought of it). We were allotted a little indented space in the metal barriers across from the Palazzo. The Ostinati had signs and banners, and we had the American signs we’d carried in the 19 March demonstration, and there was a long sheet spray-painted with the major statement, namely that according to Article 11 (of the Italian Constitution), Italy repudiates war. I took a photo of that sign but then forgot all about my camera later on. And so we held a nice, chatty vigil, everybody introducing him/herself to the others... People looked at us as we taped and tied and attached, but (as often here in Rome), their interest is almost a kind of solidarity. I realized that I had seen Marco in the piazza a bit earlier, also milling about, but hadn’t known we were there for the same thing. I set the books down on my back pack and some of the Ostinati browsed through them and asked me questions (they were UN publications, some years back...). Some Italians dropped by to exchange ideas, and at one point there were about 12 of us. The night was absolutely lovely, with many people walking by and noticing the signs, and us. Somebody went for pizza and calzone, and cookies, which I thought was a very nice touch, as it was a tad bit chilly. Some Americans also stopped to ask questions and chat (I spoke with about 6 of them). One young woman, a medical student, made the comment that it was nice to see that there was no “counter-vigil”, nobody trying just to “deny” what we were doing (and how refreshing that is...) and we spoke for a while about US politics, the last election and so on, and about how violence begins to inhabit a society, and permeates into all of its politics. Mostly, I felt somehow that that one little spot was a warm center, a candle in the wind, a light in the darkness... it was hard to describe, and nobody made a big deal out of it. A few people, in a common action, for the common good, for a brief moment. But just being there was important, and good. I’m glad I went.
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