18 July 2017
We Are Free To Say “NO!” To The Orlando-Minniti Decree
In its own way, what happened in Piazza Pantheon on June 20th during the demonstration for the International Day of the Refugee represents a moment of this kind.
In a demonstration (organised with authorisation) an activist, a lawyer, an expert on immigration, provided a harsh and argumentative criticism of the Minniti-Orlando decree, recently passed in to law. The reaction of the police present at the event was immediate, asking the activist to identify himself at the end of the intervention. Those present, taken by surprise, protested against what was, to many there, an abuse of power and an unacceptable act of violation of the freedom of expression, liberty of though and the right to serious, determined but peaceful political criticism.
As videos testify, the police asked the spokesperson for Amnesty International (organiser of the demonstration) to “disassociate” himself from the content of the speech. Another four activists who asked for an explanation about what was happening and the reasons for the request for the activist to identify himself, were in their own turn asked to identify themselves.
Over the following days, news of the events was spread widely through the media and social networks. In an attempt to receive an explanation about what happened, three questions were raised in parliament – all of which have been evaded.
What might have otherwise remained simply an unpleasant episode has been transformed, after three weeks, into something which we would never have thought possible: a criminal case has been brought against five people.
Those identified, in fact, have all received notice from the relevant local police commissariats to provide a contract address and nominate a lawyer. The commissariat at Trevi Campo Marzio took it upon itself to sent a detailed report including the hypotheses of the possible crimes committed. The activist who have the speech would by accused of “contempt for the Republic, for constitutional bodies and the armed forces”, and all five of “violence and threats towards a public official”. The last time someone was condemned for contempt for constitutional bodies was in the 1970s.
We feel it is crucial to react in a firm and determined way against what happened at the Pantheon and is happening across Italy and Europe.
Democratic spaces are being restricted to an increasingly disturbing extent in our country. The complicity between political powers adopting laws which clamp down on freedom and a police force which feels free to act without checks represents a constant threat against those who protest peacefully in the open air and in the light of the sun.
We must react now and together. Every space from which free thought, dissent, critique and opposition to the government and its laws is removed represents a space from which our freedom and our future has been removed.
It is no accident that what happened occurred during the International Day of the Refugee, and against an activist who was criticising the impact of the Orlando-Minniti decree on the migrant population and on our cities. It is migrants, the marginalised, the excluded, who are the first to be hit by these two laws. And consequently, whoever publicly commits themselves to the defence of their rights risks repressions and intimidation.
We call on you to support this appeal in defence of the right to dissent and freedom of expression, to free thought and critique, as laid down by our democracy and our constitution.
We call on you to support this appeal as an act of solidarity with those who are being charged, to say symbolically “I’m also guilty!” – because if to criticise the government or its laws,which we believe to be unjust, is considered as contempt then we are all guilty.
We will meet on July 20th, 6.30pm at the Pantheon for a demonstration in defence of the freedom to dissent and of expression. Bring a phrase, a dream, an idea, a placard.
To sign the appeal, individually or collectively, write to [email protected]