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Italy’s Green Pass Demonstrations Shake Europe

Italians are taking to the streets and the ports to protest the country's far-reaching vaccine passport system.

On October 15, 2021, Italy became the first country in the Western world to impose the “green pass” for workers, consequently forcing people to either get fully vaccinated or not be allowed to work. While the government said that it is not a mandatory vaccination measure because the alternative is to take a rapid test that lasts for 48 hours, it is also true that such a test costs 15 euros. Now, considering that people work 5 to 6 days a week, a worker who does not want to get vaccinated would have to spend approximately 180 euros per month.

Yes, in a few words, in Italy unvaccinated people have to pay to go to work. This measure goes against the Constitution and international human rights treaties; several lawyers are taking legal action against the government, but judicial procedures take time, while people have to deal with it immediately.

In other European countries, rapid tests are either free or cost a few cents, but the Italian government clearly stated that costs for tests should not be lowered because otherwise people will not get vaccinated, and making tests more available would also show a lack of respect for those who got the shot. It doesn’t matter if doctors indicate that tests are a good way to keep the situation under control. It doesn’t matter if vaccinated people can still spread the virus, get sick, and end up in intensive care. Vaccinated people in Italy do not need to take a test.

It is also important to keep in mind that those who decide to get vaccinated have to sign a disclaimer where it is stated that it is a free choice and that the patient is aware of potential repercussions caused by the vaccine. This is indeed a way for the Italian government to avoid legal issues in case of illnesses or even death caused by the vaccine, which is still in its experimental phase and will remain so until 2023.

Many in Italy are noticing an increase in death due to heart strokes and thrombosis, especially among young people, such as 18-year-old Camilla Canepa, who died in June after being vaccinated. Cause of death? Thrombosis.

The majority of the mainstream media is supporting the narrative that the vaccine is safe, that everyone should get it, that almost 90 percent of Italians are vaccinated; however, the government is basically blackmailing people to get vaccinated. In some cases, those who refuse the shot are even being stigmatized as plague spreaders who endanger the lives of the vaccinated. If the vaccine is so effective, then why should the vaccinated be afraid? If the unvaccinated are just a tiny minority of approximately 10 percent, then why be afraid of them?

It is possible that the number of unvaccinated people is far higher than what the government and the mainstream media say; this hypothesis can be backed up by the fact that pharmacies are overloaded with work due to the high number of people who are getting rapid tests, and also by information coming from many companies that are having trouble with their operations because workers are not showing up, either because they are not willing to pay tests, or simply because they didn’t manage to get a test on time due to the long queues outside pharmacies. At the end of October, a pharmacist in Udine had a hysterical reaction outside his store, after days of excessive work due to tests; the video went viral on social networks.

This situation has led to one big phenomenon that the Italian mainstream media are trying to avoid properly discussing: the massive street demonstrations against coercive vaccinations. Initially, these demonstrations mainly occurred in the north of Italy, but they quickly spread to the rest of the country, especially after September 1, when the green pass became mandatory for bars and restaurants, and with a boom after October 15, when the measure hit the work sector.

Since mid-August, the situation rapidly evolved, with thousands of people taking the streets every weekend. Vaccinated and unvaccinated, side to side, to call for the respect of Constitutional rights. In some cases, the police responded with extreme violence, such as in Rome at the beginning of October when they severely beat peaceful demonstrators that were trying to reach government buildings.

However, the turning point was in mid-October in Trieste, when the city’s port workers decided to go on strike and demonstrate outside gate 4. This move created serious consequences—and not only for the Italian government, considering the strategic importance of Trieste’s port for the European economy, with a trading volume of 64 million tons.

On October 18, the minister of interior ordered the police to attack the workers on strike that were peacefully demonstrating. The images of the assault were all caught on video and shocked public opinion due to their brutality. The police beat, tear-gassed, and soaked with hydrants men and women, children and old people. Some of them were holding hands and praying in front of the police. Tear gas even ended up inside a middle school. As if it wasn’t enough, the chief of the port police, Fabio Soldatich, was caught on camera launching the assault while performing what looked like a Nazi salute, generating indignation worldwide.

The images of the police violence in Trieste went viral, and people throughout Italy took the streets to show their support for the beaten workers. The number of demonstrators drastically increased, and even cities in the south, previously almost silent, began to switch on, with thousands of people gathering in Sicily, Campania, and Puglia.

The protest went far beyond Italy’s border, as the chant sang by Trieste’s port workers “la gente come noi non molla mai” (“people like us never give up”) began to be sung all over Europe.

Trieste’s port workers, led by spokesman Stefano Puzzer, a fully vaccinated man who took the brave decision to strike with his fellow workers, repeatedly asked for a response from the Draghi-led government, but in Rome they are not willing to listen.

On November 2, Stefano Puzzer reached Rome and announced that he would remain in Piazza del Popolo until someone from the government would sit and talk. In just two weeks, Puzzer has become a national hero. In his announcement video, he explained how important it is to remain peaceful and cohesive, because it is not a protest against the vaccine, as each one should be free to decide what to do, but it is rather a protest against the green pass, in defense of the Constitution and human rights, which have been violated by the Draghi government. Puzzer also called for a general strike until the green pass is abolished.

Incredibly, at around 5 p.m., Puzzer was taken to a local police station and held for five hours before being released with a so-called “urban daspo” which will forbid him to go to Rome for a whole year. He was also accused of unauthorized demonstration, even though he was not demonstrating, but simply waiting for someone from the government to go see him. The episode has caused turmoil in public opinion; several opposition parliament members asked the interior minister for a proper explanation, which still hasn’t come. Lawyer Alessandro Fusillo, who is on the front line against this authoritarian, claimed that this is one of the darkest times in Italy’s history, like during the fascist years.

Going forward, protests will be held at least three times per week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The Italian government is concerned about this, as well as about the negative effects that constant demonstrations and strikes will have on the economy. But in Rome they not only show no will to enter discussions with the demonstrators, they even announced that the state of emergency and the green pass could be further extended after December 31.

One thing is certain: Although Draghi is trying to give an image of Italy in full economic recovery, the situation is extremely problematic, not only because of the protests but also due to the increase in the cost of living, especially in regards to raw materials, electricity, and gas. A complicated winter of demonstrations is waiting, and not only for Italy, as Trieste’s protest shook Europe.

Giovanni Giacalone is a researcher at Centro Studi Machiavelli and a senior analyst at the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies at the Catholic University of Milan.

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