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Italian workers supporting the U.S. use of Dal Molin airfield in Vicenza, Italy, hold a sign that loosely translates into: "Additional jobs minus lies equals 'yes' on Dal Molin."

Italian workers supporting the U.S. use of Dal Molin airfield in Vicenza, Italy, hold a sign that loosely translates into: "Additional jobs minus lies equals 'yes' on Dal Molin." (Kent Harris / S&S)

VICENZA, Italy — Hundreds of Italians employed by the U.S. military took to the busy street in front of Caserma Ederle on Thursday to show their support for the proposed use of Dal Molin airfield.

Thousands of motorists got the message. Whether they wanted to or not.

“We are stopping the cars … probably to Padova,” said Giovanni Comiati, who works in the maintenance shop on base. “There are probably a lot of people in Vicenza who are not so happy now. But we are looking for visibility.”

While the traffic wasn’t backed up all the way to Padova — about 20 miles away on the A4 Autostrada — it was backed up almost to the freeway exit, a few miles from the base. And cars were forced into idle at times on Via Della Pace, the main road that the protesters were gathered on.

Protesters said they needed to garner attention to their cause to counter demonstrations by those opposed to the proposed U.S. use of the airfield. American military officials have said they want to base the 173rd Airborne Brigade in one location. The move would bring in 1,600 troops temporarily stationed in Bamberg and Schweinfurt in Germany. The brigade stood up in Vicenza on June 12, 2000 with only one battalion. It has since grown to six battalions. Only two are based on small, crowded Ederle.

Those opposed to the U.S. expansion have staged several protests of varying sizes. A small one earlier in the week temporarily trapped Robert Spogli, the U.S. ambassador to Italy, in his vehicle before Italian police intervened. Spogli had been meeting with local officials to discuss the issue.

Roberto Frizzo, who works in communications on base, said he believed that a majority of Italians in Vicenza support the U.S. expansion.

“Only a few members of the nonglobal movement don’t want the facility,” he said. “Our government has to decide and decide for a ‘yes.’ ”

Employees carried signs stating the base employs 744 Italian workers. Several pointed out that the shops they were protesting in front of, hundreds of homeowners who rent to Americans and others benefit greatly from the American presence.

That presence could be in jeopardy if the Dal Molin expansion, or a similar situation, doesn’t get approved.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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