Vicenza’s tent city protesters stand firm
Stars and Stripes March 22, 2008
VICENZA, Italy — Several weeks after the city of Vicenza told protesters that they’d have to take down a tent city they’ve occupied since fall 2006, there are no signs of anyone packing up.
In fact, Marco Palma, a leader of those opposed to the U.S. military’s use of the Dal Molin airfield, said the group has no plan to go away.
“Absolutely not,” he said Thursday when asked if the group was ready to comply or stop protesting.
The tents, erected on private land within site of the airfield, quickly became a gathering place for those opposed to letting the Army build offices and barracks for troops on the airfield. Since it went up, at least a few protesters have been on site virtually around the clock.
Palma said several hundred people involved in the “No Dal Molin” movement still gather in the two large white tents every Tuesday. The site has also evolved into a social activity center, with tai chi lessons given every Wednesday.
The city issued its verdict in early March, Palma said, and protesters had 60 days to appeal the decision. They’ll do so, he said, but they have no plans to take the tent down if they lose.
“We’ll move only when we want to,” he said.
Palma said the city’s official reason for shutting the tent down was listed as a violation of zoning regulations, but he believes the decision was politically motivated. Members of the council who made the decision have since resigned in preparation for upcoming elections and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Palma said protesters feel they’re engaging in the most basic of democratic rights — peacefully showing their opposition to a project they feel they had no say in and don’t support.
Asked if he had any hope that the upcoming local and national elections in April might change the situation, Palma answered, “No.” Those expected to do well in the elections haven’t appeared to be sympathetic to their cause, he said.
Those opposed to the U.S. using Dal Molin are still a disparate group, with protesters voicing a variety of reasons why they don’t want the project to proceed.
Two on site Thursday who declined to speak on the record listed a number of problems they had: They don’t believe U.S. assertions that the airfield won’t be used for military purposes; they fear property values in the area will plummet; and they’re concerned over local water quality and crowding.
Many others in the group oppose U.S. activities around the globe and believe that if they had allowed the project to go unopposed they would be endorsing U.S. foreign policies they disagree with.
Valentina Lehman provided translation for this report.