Italy
Update: Protocol on demonstrations sets authorised routes in Rome


In application of the "general directive on public demonstrations" issued by the interior ministry on 26 January 2009 that invited prefetti (government representatives in charge of security in a city) to set more stringent conditions for demonstrations in urban centres and "sensitive" areas.

On 10 March 2009 the prefecture of Rome produced a "Protocol to discipline demonstrations in squares" that sets the six routes authorised for use in demonstrations and the six squares in which sit-in protests will be allowed. The protocol was agreed with representatives of four leading trade unions and eight political parties, with the Lega Nord, Rifondazione Comunista and the Partito dei Comunisti Italiani not signing the document, which recognises the right to demonstrate, but limits it to "respecting other constitutional rights". It highlights that Rome, as the capital and seat of important institutional and international sites, is affected by many demonstrations and that it is unlikely that this will change, while it also gives rise to discomfort for people's enjoyment of life in the city and public services. Thus, apart from the large national demonstrations and national holidays involving political initiatives like Mayday or 25 April, demonstrations in the historic city centre will be held "prevalently" along the following routes, with the numbers expected to attend playing a part in the decision as to the route to be approved:

- Piazza della Repubblica to Piazza di Porta San Giovanni
- Piazzale dei Partigiani to Piazza di Porta San Giovanni
- Piazza Bocca della Verità to Piazza Navona
- Piazza Bocca della Verità to via di San Gregorio
- Piazzale dei Partigiani to via di San Gregorio
- Piazza della Repubblica to Piazza del Popolo

As for sit-in protests, they will be allowed in the following squares:
- Piazza Bocca della Verità
- Piazzetta San Marco
- Piazza S. Apostoli
- Piazza Barberini
- the Circus Maximus
- Piazza Farnese

Organisers will not be allowed to request the use of the same route more than once per month, "to guarantee everyone an equal right to demonstrate and full enjoyment of the spaces devoted to this". Rome city council commits to make available spaces and boards for the exhibition of messages along the routes, to make procedures for authorising demonstrations less cumbersome, and to re-assess the deposit required to cover the possibility of damage taking place in the historic city centre. The protocol does not apply to local demonstrations in the city's peripheral areas.

Only a week after its adoption, the implications of the protocol and "regulation" of demonstrations, in terms of police interventions against protest initiatives or gatherings anywhere else, became clear. On 18 March 2009, there was a strike in Rome's La Sapienza university. After the assembly, when around 500 students were ready to march out of the university grounds to head towards an authorised CGIL trade union demonstration that directly concerned them, against cuts in funding for school and research, they were repeatedly charged by the police, which forced them back into the university enclosure. Six students ended up in the A&E at the hospital after receiving truncheon blows. The police were imposing this "administrative" prohibition of unauthorised demonstrations outside of the agreed demonstration routes, striking studies and keeping them captive inside the university grounds, at whose exits officers of the police, carabinieri and guardia di finanza (customs and excise police) were stationed, who would respond to efforts to leave by answering, "you can't pass through here.... This is not an authorised march".

Sources

"Protocollo per la disciplina delle manifestazioni nelle piazze", Prefettura di Roma, 10, March 2009; il manifesto, 19.3.2009; Previous Statewatch coverage: Italy: Interior Ministry directive on demonstrations in urban centres


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