[R-G] Rome: At least 100,000 protesters denounce Berlusconi
bstoller at utopia2000.org
Sat Sep 14 13:06:16 MDT 2002
BBC and AP (with additional material by Reuters). 14 September 2002.
Left rallies against Berlusconi; Protesters in Rome denounce Berlusconi,
as Italian leader meets with Bush.
ROME -- More than 100,000 left-wingers have held a protest meeting in
Rome against Prime Minister Berlusconi's decision to push a law through
parliament to delay his trial on corruption charges.
The rally for Legality and Justice was organised not by politicians, but
by one of Italy's best-known film directors, Nanni Moretti.
The police said 100,000 people filled the piazza and the organisers
claimed four times that number.
But, by any account, this was a powerful demonstration of public
opposition to Mr Berlusconi's right-wing coalition.
There were more singers, actors, artists, journalists and musicians on
the platform than politicians -- a sign that part of the anger of
Italy's middle classes against Mr erlusconi is directed as much against
the political parties of the left for failing to carry out an effective
political opposition, as against Mr Berlusconi himself.
Inevitably, the demonstration also took on the tones of an anti-war
The demonstration came as Berlusconi -- a media magnate who is Italy's
richest man -- was in the United States, meeting with President George
W. Bush about possible military action in Iraq.
Italian public opinion is heavily against joining in any military action
Alda Armando, a 62-year-old former teacher, flew down from Turin for the
rally, saying it was the first time she had been politically involved.
"The government's behavior is disgusting," she said. "It is too much
The controversial government bill would allow defendants to ask for
their trials to be annulled or moved to another court if they have
"legitimate suspicion" that judges are biased against them. Berlusconi
is on trial in Milan for allegedly bribing judges in the 1980s.
The bill has already been passed by the Senate, but needs approval in
the lower Chamber of Deputies. Berlusconi's coalition has a majority in
Ahead of Saturday's rally, Nobel literature prize winner Dario Fo and
his wife and literary partner Franca Rame attended a demonstration
outside Rome's central Regina Coeli prison.
Prisoners hung banners out of the windows of their cells saying that
since they had to undergo trials, Berlusconi should do the same.
Berlusconi's opponents argue that in addition to this bill, the premier
has been proposing measures to help his business interests, while never
addressing concerns about his alleged conflict of interest as head of
government and of Italy's biggest media empire.
[N.B.] Center-left politicians were not invited to speak at Saturday's
rally -- a sign of protesters' frustration with their elected
Many Berlusconi opponents were angered that the center-left failed to
pass conflict-of-interest legislation during its five years in power,
which ended after the media tycoon won May 2001 elections.
Since February, Moretti has organized a series of demonstrations known
as "ring-around-the-rosy" protests, named because the activists join
hands and march around in circles. Moretti -- whose film "The Son's
Room" won top prize last year at the Cannes Film Festival -- became
politically active this year because of frustration with Italy's left,
whom he accuses of internal bickering.
Protester Marco Tagliaferro, a 36-year-old from outside the northern
city of Parma, came down to Rome by bus, saying he hoped the protest
would strengthen the opposition.
"Today's demonstration is a seed for the future for a sterile left," he said.
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