When we heard that President Bush would be coming to town our first reaction was, "Oh no; did you hear about what happened last year?" Our second reaction was, "who wants to go check the protest?" And so we did.
The protest was scheduled for five o'clock in the Piazza della Republica. We arrived a little bit before five and people were lining up across the street from the Fountain of the Naiads. Naiads are lake nymphs and the fountain features four of them, each riding her own fish-monster beneath the cool spray of the fountain. In the center of it all, Glaucus, appearing to take no interest in the bathing/fish-riding nymphs, wrestles his own fish-monster. The protesters took little time to appreciate the edifice, having a different monster from across the ocean on their minds.
There were a number of Italian political groups at the rally. Most of them were communists or some particular sect of communist. I could tell this because they won handily to contest to see who could bring the largest number of protest flags. At one point, I was tempted to take one as a souvenir. It was interesting to see flags used so prolifically by the communist factions. I think that this may have been, in part, an attempt to visualize the quantity of their presence as clearly as possible.
The protest turned out to be much smaller this year than last. I suspect that this is largely because of the waning media interest in the Bush administration as the election that will replace it looms in the near future. The Ahabism of the protest reached a fever pitch with a rendition of Denis Kucinich's thirty-five articles of impeachment by the local Code Pink contingent. Although I was not able to get a picture of it, there was at least one protester carrying an Obama poster; a more realistic political statement in my estimation.
The United States' illegal occupation of Iraq was not the only issue on tap for the protest. Many protesters also carried Palestinian and Cuban flags presumably assessing US foreign policy as poor regarding both of those nations as well. According to Kelley, who took part in the ensuing parade, the group marched all over the northeast of Rome winding up in another piazza. The entire time, a helicopter, which looked to be painted in the colors of the Rome police force, hovered overhead.
Landmarks seem to play an important role in protests in Rome. Although it would be hard to have any protest that does not at least pass near an important landmark in the monument-crowded eternal city, these places seem to be sought after by protest groups for the visibility that they lend. The Piazza Venezia was the backdrop for the 2007 protests and this year the Carbinieri and Polizia were out in force to insure that it would not be again. walking through I counted Carbinieri and Polizia vans in the double digits. The state, it appears, recognizes the importance of these places and the ability to control what happens there.