Students protest outside Italy NATO base
March 14, 2003
NAPLES, Italy — Wielding cans of spray paint and rainbow peace flags outside a NATO base, more than 1,000 secondary school students protested Thursday a possible war with Iraq.
“We are against war in Iraq because we are against Bush’s political actions,” said Simone Montolla, a member of the Naples’ Student Association and a protest organizer.
The NATO base serves as the headquarters for Allied Forces Southern Europe and the U.S. Army and Navy both have offices there.
Protesters didn’t target any of the American bases in Naples.
Slogans ranging from “stop the war” to “no imperialist war” the occasional “yankee go” ended up on everything from flags to the outer wall of the AFSouth base.
Most protesters said they weren’t against Americans, but rather American foreign policy, war and any possible NATO participation in a conflict with Iraq.
“We want the U.S. to go,” 18-year-old Michael Moreni said. “But we don’t think they are listening.”
Daniela Esposito, 16, said despite some of the slogans, the students aren’t angry with American military members stationed in Naples.
“This is against the base, not the people,” she said.
Pounding music, anti-war chants, marijuana smoke and periodic mosh pits mixed together during the protest.
Lines of carabinieri and police watched students spray paint anti-American and NATO slogans along the outside wall of the base and on the road near it.
According to a carabinieri official, the graffiti will be removed after protesters leave.
The only tension during the protest came when two men climbed up wall topped by fencing and barbed wire to fly an oversize rainbow flag, much to the delight of the crowd below.
Both Carabinieri and police, riot helmets on their belts, lined up in front of the base but didn't clash with protesters.
No one was arrested, AFSouth spokesperson Capt. Mark Oden said, and the base’s main gate remained open during the demonstration.
The back gate, however, was opened for people who were reluctant to drive past the protest.
“We sent a note around a few days ago,” Oden said.
“It was business as usual.”