Rome, January 14
[videos down below]
We are making up for a slow start. Today there was a demonstration against the concentration camps for ‘illegal’ immigrants. And at the same time we held a debate on the debt at San Giovanni, with the participation of people who really know something about it.
But most of all, today was Vatican day.
Since we arrived here, the media haven’t really given us much attention. With a single exception. One of those crappy free newspapers has gone down on us very hard. They gave us the honour of almost an entire page every day. The ‘journalists’ who weren’t ashamed to have their name printed above those articles have spoken to everybody. To the neighbours, the shopkeepers, the police, city officials and even a spokesman of the Vatican. Everybody except ourselves. Yesterday their attack was focussed on our supposed disrespect for the catholic religion, because we attached a banner to the arms of the St. Francis statue. A minor Vatican official was said to be very displeased about this. So we acted, we took it down, and we put up a quote of St. Francis. “Happy is he who doesn’t keep anything for himself.” We added another piece of cardboard saying that St. Francis gave away all his belongings and that the gold reserves of the Vatican are second only to those of the United States…
Then we moved for an action on the spot. Saint Peter’s Square. I didn’t take part in the organisation, but it was a splendid action to observe.
We all arrived separately. But since we are under observation, many of our faces were known, and the undercover police agents in the square had a feeling that something was boiling. Indeed, the atmosphere was electric. All of us were walking around like tourists, exchanging secret looks of understanding, while the police was asking for identification left and right, trying to find out what was going to happen.
Then it started. One of us jumped over the barrier around the christmas stable in the centre of the square and started to climb high up the christmas tree. The police circled the tree, but no-one dared to go up after him.
It was a diversion. At the same time someone else dressed up in a tent, in imitation of our comrades from Melbourne, and started running. We all went after him. One of us, a man of age with a beard threw off his cape and presented himself in the white outfit of an indignant pope.
At the end of the ludicrous performance, we put up four tents and gathered around to protect it.
Police were completely taken by surprise. They weren’t able to evict the encampment, and they weren’t able to prevent us from holding an assembly straight in front of St. Peter’s basilica. It was magic.
After that, we played with them for the rest of the afternoon to the enjoyment of the tourists. We treated St. Peter’s as just another public square and we denounced the collusion of the church with the political-financial system together with the fact that religious institutions are exempt from taxation. Our pope went around to benedict the faithful indignados.
The action was all the more enjoyable because the police was a complete joke. They were even more disorganised than we were. At a certain point there were carabinieri, guardia di finanza and local police present in the centre of the square, surrounded by the indignados. Only the Swiss guards were missing, unfortunately. They would have added a nice touch of colour to the chaos. No-one seemed to know that to do with us. At a certain point a police officer stole a camera from one of our comrades, and he was immediately followed by a loud bunch of indignados shouting that he was a thief. In the end the camera was returned, with all the content deleted.
It didn’t matter. Everything was filmed and photographed from different angles. By ourselves, by the press, by the tourists. My mom was here in visit as well. She has been fervently anticlerical ever since she received a catholic education. She was happy to play her part. As a precaution, she smuggled my memory card out of the square.
Finally our treeclimbing comrade came down. He was taken into custody and locked up together with Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, the ox, the donkey and two other arrested indignados inside the Christmas stable. For the rest of the afternoon we guarded the exits to prevent them from being taken away. In the end, the police broke the barrier with limited use of force.
After that, the rest of us were also forced out of the square, in the same amateuristic manner that had characterised the police action all afternoon. They wanted to identify us before letting us go, but they didn’t even round us up properly. One officer stepped up to me to ask my papers. I simply refused, and walked off, content to have been part of a historic day in Rome.