Milan like Barcelona. Together, without walls, against the racist criminalisation of migrants and the poor. For an international network of antiracist cities

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Milan like Barcelona. Together, without walls, against the racist criminalisation of migrants and the poor. For an international network of antiracist cities (by S. Palidda)
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(Originally published in French by Médiapart on 22 May 2017 - link)

"Following the example of Barcelona, where between 160,000 and 300,000 people mobilised on the past 18 February in support of rights for migrants and to promote an international network of cities against racism where immigrants will be welcomed, around 100,000 people participated in a demonstration in Milan on 20 May. The appeal for the demonstration ( in Italian, English, French, Spanish and Arabic) was launched by the Milan mayor's office, several personalities from all walks of life, 600 associations, NGOs and institutions as well as 70 Italian city councils.

The importance of this demonstration is especially noteworthy because it proved a wonderful opportunity offering the possibility of a joint mobilisation to people and organisations ranging from the most moderate to the more radical left, people without political party membership and schoolkids, all the way to various religious groups or small groups of immigrants and Italians, all of whom were united against racism and in favour of the right for everyone to live in peace and to open a path towards emancipation.

One could claim that it is a sort of remake of the NO's victory in the November 2017 referendum over constitutional changes with the addition of a large participation by migrants (especially young people of all nationalities) and the shift of many people who had voted for Renzi into the front of those who in fact oppose the behaviour of the Italian government and its current interior minister [Minniti]. Thus, the mayor of Milan, the only one from a large city who is on Renzi's side, stated at the end of the demonstration that: "the mayor's office does not mobilise against laws but for laws to be changed; I know that keeping promises is very difficult, but I commit to never direct my gaze elsewhere when faced with the undeniable need to guarantee the rights of migrants and of the poor. Solidarity and a welcoming reception assures justice… we must guarantee the rights of those who arrive and of those who are already here. As a citizen and mayor I do not want to live in a city that is too cynical which only thinks of itself. I want to be a builder of bridges, not walls". And the president of the Senate, Grasso, began talking after the mayor and stated: "those born in Italy are Italian". These words clearly oppose not just the fascist or Berlusconi-led right, but also the governing left which has never voted the law to grant Italian nationality to the children of foreigners born in Italy (Italy does not have jus soli - birthright citizenship) and they also oppose the governmental right and left which have never stopped adopting measures promoting a prohibitionist drift against migrations. It is exactly what minister Minniti has just done, as a man who is from Renzi's party, but seeks to go further down the route which proposes the rise of a securitarian left (following Valls' example in France).

We should recall that none of the (pseudo) left-wing governments has ever proposed to regularise the terrible situation experienced by hundreds of thousands of migrant workers as well as by Italians who are forced to accept illegal employment and conditions of neo-slavery. Instead, the right and left alike have never stopped outdoing each other regarding probitionist measures and the racist criminalisation of immigrants and Roma people.

The fascist and racist right, including the Northern League and the Berlusconi milieu, very forcefully attacked this demonstration because they understood very well that it was an occasion of very strong unitary mobilisation by an extremely wide section of public opinion, including people from the centre who are rather moderate in favour of a course of action which clearly opposes the routine prohibitionism and racist criminalisation which have been dominant for a long time. This demonstration also challenged the radical left's protests because everyone was able to see that there was even involvement by mayors who had been on Renzi's side, in support of anti-racism and anti-prohibitionism. Elsewhere, the 5 Star Movement (whose father-owner Grillo is busy trying to appear prominently throughout the media) went on its own little march in Assisi to establish a "guaranteed citizens' income", after its numerous statements against immigrants and in favour of "zero tolerance" which clearly show an intention to compete electorally with the right of the fascists and the Northern League.

The Milan demonstration also takes on international importance because it was linked to the creation of a worldwide network of anti-racist cities against prohibitionism in the field of migration policy: after Barcelona, New York has already organised the NYC Immigrant Heritage Week , Boston the Immigrant Heritage Month-I am an Immigrant , in Chicago, the mayor Rahm Emanuel has started a Twitter account @ChiNewAmericans to welcome migrants, and Madrid is also organising a similar demonstration to the one held in Milan. Other adherents to this network include London, Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Gdandsk, Los Angeles, Montreal, Paris, Stockholm, Toronto and Warsaw.

Alas, on the very day of the demonstration, a 30-year-old Malian was found, dead, at the Cannes La Bocca station on a train which came from Ventimiglia. He had tried to hide in the space reserved for the electrical panel on the train. Since 2015, dozens of migrants have died while they attempted the border crossing from Ventimiglia to France."

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