Vigil at Palazzo Chigi with Articolo 11 / Ostinati per la pace
April 28, 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 Stephanie's account of the evening:
This was my second vigil with Ostinati per la pace. I got there a little early and was in fact the only one there. Shortly afterwards Chiara from Ostinati arrived loaded down with flags, banners and signs.
As we started to unfurl the banner, some police officers and carabinieri stopped by to say hello and chat. Chiara's group has been holding this vigil since last September, at times every single night of the week. So they've gotten to know some of the officers quite well.
Some make comments of the type "you're still here?" To which Chiara replies, "It's not that we're still here, it's that they are still there!", referring to the troops in Iraq. Others tread lightly on the topic, knowing they can't express a political opinion while wearing a uniform, but do acknowledge that "war is a terrible thing for everyone involved, no one can deny this."
Another person from our group, Judith, arrived just in time as we started to "decorate" the small barricaded area reserved for protests in front of Palazzo Chigi. We tied the Articolo 11 banner to the railings, hung signs, peace flags on poles as well as about 10 peace flags tied together across the front of the barricade.
I also had some of the signs we had made for the March 19 demonstration. Though I felt a bit odd about putting them out. They clearly state that we are U.S. citizens and I didn't want to give the idea that our group had organized the vigil. We are newcomers and Ostinati have been doing this for months. In fact, talking with Chiara, we decided to make some new signs indicating that this is an international effort.
And making the group even more international, along came Ilija, who is from ex Yugoslavia. He has lived in Italy for some time and often joins the vigil. In fact, he was also there with his wife the first time I went.
It was admittedly a slow night. My first experience was quite lively, as many tourists stopped by to talk, offer support and ask questions. This time there weren't many people on the streets. And most walking by were very big groups.
A couple of friends who just happened to be in Rome on holiday stopped by. It was quite a surprise as I had just casually mentioned that I would be there on Thursday, but I wasn't expecting to see them there. We chatted for a while and they continued with their sightseeing.
Judith and I took advantage of our time together with Chiara. She gave us lessons on how to ask for permission to host protests/vigils. I had printed out the form available on the web and she gave me tips on how to fill it out as well as what to expect when presenting it. This will come in handy once we start organizing vigils or protests on our own.
She also shared some poetry with us. And we talked about ways to animate the vigil, to get more people involved. It is difficult as we all lead busy lives and many ask themselves, "What good does it do?"
For me it is very important. As Judith put it when asked that very question by an English/Scottish couple who stopped by, we are there representing all the people who oppose war, violence and aggression as a solution. We have to be there.
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