[ 17. Nov 2010 ]

The crane hunger strike

Protesters on the crane

Four hunger-striking immigrants have blockaded themselves on top of a crane from 30 October to 15 November 2010 in the Italian city of Brescia in a desperate protest that has attracted national attention.


The "crane struggle" starts on October 30th, during a free, unauthorized demonstration of about 100 people in Brescia, supporting the many thousands of immigrants in Italy, who are forced to work illegally and live underground for years, being subject to frauds, blackmails and any sort of unjustice by the unfair (and actually also un-constitutional) Bossi-Fini Law.

While the demonstrators seem to be effectively holding back the police cordon, some people get arrested and 6 men from Pakistan, India, Egupt, Senegal and Morocco climb up the 35-meter crane and begin a protest against the injustices suffered by about 1700 immigrants in Brescia: After having applied for the 'colfs and carers' ranking list (paying the Brescia Prefecture 500 Euro), these people were dropped from it for having produced false employment documents (most likely sold to them by swindlers) or were receiving warning orders of eviction from Italy.

For the rest of the month, supporters of the cause picket the building site around the crane and show their solidarity: Squatted social centres with banners and sit-ins, the association Diritti per Tutti by negotiating with the authorities, NGO Pax Christi by interceding on their behalf, Caritas by supplying clothes and food, the adjoining parish of San Faustino's by providing room for the night.

At first, the media coverage is rather low and only RAI 3 and Radio Onda d'Urto follow the protest with constant broadcasts. While some commentators label the 6 guys "the international workers avant-garde", the president of Ethnoland Otto Bitjoka, though he supports the cause, dismisses this kind of spectacular rhetoric, feeling that mediatic distortions might offer a pretext for further evictions and the justification of racism.

On the 5th day, Father Toffari's mediation results in the police suggesting an alternative site for the protest. The immigrants immediately "smell a rat" and refuse the offer, threatening to come crashing down from the top of the crane if forced to give up.

On November 8th, Arun, Papa, Sajad, Jimi, Rachid and Singh throw chunks of iron and bottles of urine to prevent the installation of a safety net which would prepare the grounds for their the evacuation. The police attacks with a blitz to clear off the site around the crane: 25 people are arrested, of which 6 ratified by the magistrate. One is a metal worker and Fiom union representative.

November 11th: Singh the Indian is promised 'humanitarian' treatment by a government representative of his country, agrees to get off the crane but is arrested, tried "for serious criminal offence", sentenced to 2 years imprisonment, and evicted from Italy within 24 hours.

November 14th: During the 1000-strong anti-racist demonstration, about 60 guys start a battle with stones, bottles, paper bombs and smoke bombs, aiming at breaking through the police barrier which has been blocking off the crane site for 8 days. In the meanwhile Papa has also got off the crane, possibly during the clash or the night before, but no media has reported it and apparently noone knows where he ended up.

On November 15th the 'craners' get off, thanks to the negotiation of the CGIL union and the Brescia's Diocese that achieve the inclusion of the 4 immigrants in the lists for regular work and residence permit in Italy.

A great victory, but still a partial one: Thousands of immigrants in Brescia and many more in the whole country are still formally sans-papiers, which in fortress Europe is absurdly defined as a crime.

Article published first on 17. Nov 2010 @ ::