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September 12, 2007

Camping for Peace in Vicenza, Italy

By Stephanie Westbrook

Report from the first few days of a week-long activist campout organized by the local movement against a new U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy, a UNESCO World Heritage City.

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Camping for Peace in Vicenza, Italy

 

It’s difficult to believe that just a week before the activist campout opened in Vicenza, Italy, there was nothing more than an empty field. The local movement against a new U.S. military base at the Dal Molin airport has put together a 4-star campground with an action packed schedule in a clear demonstration not only of their determination to continue the struggle, which has been going on for more than a year, but also of the level of support among Vicenza residents as well as people from all over Italy and beyond.

 

In fact, on Saturday the No Dal Molin Festival, which continues through September 16, hosted Naomi Klein, who expressed her wonder and admiration at the “village of peace” that had been created. “Anyone trying to depict this movement as violent needs to come here.” She had just arrived from the Venice film festival where she held the No Dal Molin flag during press conferences following the presentation of the short film, The Shock Doctrine, also shown in a special preview at the campground.

 

Mustafà Barghouti, Palestinian activist and former Minister of Information for the Palestinian National Authority, shared his appreciation for the local movement in their struggle against another form of occupation and illustrated the far more grave occupation of Palestine as well as the non-violent resistance movement, which just recently saw results. On September 4, the Israeli Supreme Court voted in favor of the people of Bil’in and agreed to move the Wall from the center of the village as they found it served no legal or security purpose. “It’s a small victory, but it’s a victory.”

 

The situation of U.S. bases in Europe was presented in seminar that included Jakub Hornacek representing the movement in the Czech Republic opposing the radar base to be part of the Missile Defense System. Over 70% of the Czech people are opposed. We also heard from Wilbert van der Zeijden of the Transnational Institute in The Netherlands. He had been one of the principal organizers of the No Bases conference in Quito, Ecuador, held just after the very successful national demonstration in Vicenza in February of this year. “Vicenza electrified the conference. Everyone was talking about Vicenza.” The U.S. embassy in Ecuador had organized a finely catered event for the press during the conference to give their version of the state of U.S. foreign bases, which they said numbered about 30 in the entire world, 6 in Europe. The reaction from the press was the same as that of public gathered in the debate tent: sheer laughter. 

 

There was also a national assembly of the Patto del mutuo soccorso, the Pact of Mutual Aid, a network of local groups throughout Italy working to defend their territory against devastating projects ranging from tunnels through the mountains in the north for high-speed trains to coal-fueled power plants in the south. Over twenty groups were represented, each sharing the methods used in the struggles and expressing solidarity.

And when the campers aren’t busy with debates and workshops, they head for the main tent to discuss the issues at the restaurant or the pizzeria, which served over 1000 people each night over the weekend, or at one of the two bars or the crepe café. There’s also a concert every evening as well as theatrical performances and midnight movies. The atmosphere is magical, with a volunteer workforce intent on not simply pulling this off, but in organizing something beyond the expectations of even the most demanding campers. 

 

The final days of the campout will be focused on direct action against the new base. The first will be aimed at the local administration, with a protest on Thursday, September 13 at 5:30pm at City Hall. A construction zone will be set up around the building, with “Danger: Falling Government” signs as the residents of Vicenza take protecting their city into their own hands. On Friday, September 14 at 2pm the movement will instead descend on the existing base of Camp Ederle, to denounce the mechanisms of war.

 

Saturday, September 15 will be the main demonstration. That morning people will leave the campground at 10am in a march to the site of the proposed base at Dal Molin, requesting entry to plant 150 trees and create a public park for the residents of Vicenza.

 

One year ago, no one would have imagined that this sleepy city in the north of Italy had the resources to mount a long-term grassroots campaign. Today, no one can doubt their determination to block construction of the new base, refusing to play a supporting role in the U.S. wars of aggression.

 

Stephanie Westbrook, U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice – Rome

Nancy Bailey, U.S. Citizens Against War - Florence

For more information on the movement in Vicenza, see the No Dal Molin web site (in Italian) at http://www.nodalmolin.it/ or articles, photos and videos in English at: http://www.peaceandjustice.it/vicenza/ 

Authors Bio:
Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen who has been living in Rome, Italy since 1991. She is active in the peace and social justice movements in Italy.

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