June 2 Peace Parade
An alternative to the military parade for the Festa della Repubblica
On June 2, 2006, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Italian Republic, U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice joined Italian peace activists for the Peace Parade, an alternative to the traditional military parade held on the occasion of the Festa della Repubblica. [see original appeal]
As troops and military vehicles marched along via dei Fori Imperiali near the Colosseum, hundreds of activists "armed" with peace flags, signs, flyers and banners occupied Ponte Sant'Angelo.
A huge peace flag was hung from the bridge. Donne in nero (Women in Black) set up their workshop making colorful "cappelli di pace" (peace hats) which they then modeled for us all during the parade. We hung our posters on the bridge, Iraq in Numbers [versione italiana], Afghanistan in Numbers [versione italiana] and the ever-popular Impeach Bush. Photographers swarmed around. We also had our signs; the most popular being "Italy: Don't Support Bush's War."
An open mic was offered to peace activists, including our own Giuliana, and the few politicians with enough courage to be there with us. And with air raid sirens blaring, a die-in was staged.
Jessica, a student who had lived in Rome and was back for the summer found us and asked to join our ranks. We quickly put a sign in her hand. She was later interviewed on the regional news.
The Peace Parade then got underway as we marched off along the Tiber River. A young girl asked her father, "What flag is that?" referring to our U.S. peace flag. He explained that it was the U.S. flag but it had been "modified." I clarified that it had instead been "improved upon!"
A man from the U.S. who was visiting Italy stopped us and asked to take our photo. We noticed he was wearing a t-shirt with photos of Rice, Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney in a circle with a slash through it and below a caption of "mi dispiace" (I'm sorry), so we asked to take his photo as well.
The march continued to Ponte Garibaldi where the huge peace flag was again dropped from the bridge, and then proceeded on to Largo Argentina, the end of the line. Here we met two tourists from South Carolina who just happened by. We gave them signs and they joined us for the rest of the demonstration.
Another man came up to me and said he wanted to thank us for our efforts. He also said, "I hope my country is not next." He was, of course, Iranian. We shared thoughts on U.S. foreign policy and he expressed his love of the United States, as most of his family is living there, but also his very real fear of an imminent attack.
The microphone was again offered to activists and politicians, including Lidia Menapace, former senator and icon of the peace movement, Piero Bernocchi of Cobas, Fabio Alberti of Un ponte per... and Alfio Nicotra of Rifondazione Comunista.
Two young women then took the mic saying, "We know what you're thinking. 'What do these young kids have to say?' Well we want to tell you that as young people we are here with you today and we also want to thank you for inspiring us." The final speaker was a former soldier who rallied the crowd with "Bring them home now – and alive!"
It was not a huge march, 1000 people according to the newspapers. It was, after all, a Friday of a long weekend. And we also have to recognize that the military parade was a big draw. But it was an important opportunity to speak out against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the continued militarization of our culture represented by the military parade.
As U.S. Citizens our presence was noticed and appreciated. A number of photos of us are on the La Repubblica newspaper web site and many shots of us were on both the regional and national news (RAI Tre) as well as a shot of us on TG1. We handed out hundreds of flyers [versione italiana]. We met and talked to a number of tourists. We made our voices heard.
Special thanks to everyone who participated in person and in spirit.
Next stop: Palazzo Chigi at the end of June as Italian Parliament votes to refinance the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ci vediamo in piazza! (See you in the streets!)
Flyers and Posters
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Copyright © 2006 Stephanie Westbrook All rights reserved
U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome, Italy