Day 99-XXV, from Santa Maria la Bruna to Pagani, 18 km.
Day 100-XXVI, from Pagani to Salerno, 19 km.
Salerno, February 15
Three days marching are not enough to leave the metropolitan area of Naples. Yesterday we turned away from the Gulf and cut through the valley that divides the coastal range from the inland mountains. This way we bypass the peninsula of Sorrento, the lemon coast, and the famous marittime republic of Amalfi.
No tourist routes then. We go from town to town, and all along the way we get stopped by the curious. “Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you going? Come have a coffee!” Many times we leave them flabbergasted. “All the way on foot?!”
“That’s right, all the way on foot.”
They lift their hats and propel us forward.
The internal conflict in the group is lighting up almost daily by now, especially with things happening in Athens. As I mentioned, there are the people who want to pick a date and push on, like comrade Marianne and comrade Max, and there are the people who want to go day by day, without a hurry. This last group is mostly French, and many of them have been walking since the very start, a hundred days ago. They are the soul of the march.
In Pagani we organised a successful popular assembly. Many young locals attended, and stayed until the end even though it was freezing cold.
Just after local tv had arrived it suddenly all exploded in front of the cameras. We had been avoiding the main problem carefully in the internal assembly, but now, with the help of alcohol, it came out.
The Flute Player got violent and accused the tv of distorting information, and us all because we preferred to sleep inside instead of camping out. Then comrade Bob accused Max and Marianne of manipulating the march, deciding on the itinerary, on the dates and everything, with tacit support of the Spanish. Finally, the rebels didn’t come with us to the elderly recreation centre to sleep, but they camped out on the square in the cold.
I understand and respect them. But I can also understand the excitement of comrade Marianne. She is a full blood revolutionary, fresh from high school. She has been marching and protesting all over Europe since last spring, and now she’s on her way home while Athens is burning. She wants to pull the cart by herself, and if it’s too heavy, cut herself loose and fly away to Greece.
This also angers some of the French. “You want to fix a date for us, when you won’t be marching yourself?”
Me, I don’t know what to think about it anymore. I try to keep my distance and observe. Things will be worse, things will be better, but I don’t think the march is in real danger. It goes on, ‘whatever the cost’.
Today, after cutting the peninsula, we descended on Salerno. Upon arrival we sat down on the boulevard in front of town hall. Police arrived. They said we couldn’t sit here, and then they asked for papers.
We didn’t like their intimidatory tone. So we ignored them. We were already planning to leave, but when they ordered us to do so we staid. More police arrived. They insisted on identification. We said no.
Here in the south, respect is very important. They thought they could exercise their authority on us, and they found out that they were wrong. Slowly their attitude started to change. They offered a compromise. Three IDs for the whole group. We said no, again. It was a question of principle.
Up until now, police have always desisted out of impatience with our lengthy assemblies. But here in Salerno they pushed through. So in the end, the van arrived. For the first time in Italy the marchers were about to be arrested.
The divisions within the group immediately vanished in the face of police repression. Resistance was transversal. And I’m content we did resist. We sat down and locked arms and legs while one of us started reading out loud the declaration of human rights, among which ‘the liberty to express your own opinion through any means necessary,’ and ‘the right to not being arrested and persecuted without a just cause’ etc.
Finally they dragged us off and took us away. The bastards almost ripped my legs up. ‘Careful with those! They have to take me to Athens still!’ Fortunately, tomorrow we will have a day off to recover.
The Salerno police was nothing like the robocops of Paris. We had a good chat in the police station, about the concepts of ‘legality’ and ‘legitimacy’. About a better world and peaceful resistance, about human nature. Still, many of the police officers didn’t understand why we resisted for three lousy IDs, which would have taken five minutes to check. It’s simple, we are not numbers, nor papers. If refusing to show identification is a crime, then the law is wrong, and we will not obey. What are principles worth if you trade them in for five minutes of compliance?
The final compromise in the police station was that some of us showed ID and vouched for the rest, to avoid us being photographed and fingerprinted. After that we were free to go. I’m sure we left a mark on them. And at the very least, we taught them to respect us.