Reclaim Your Media: a day in Rome in the name of freedom
by Anna Battista
20/02/02. For all those who attach meanings to dates, that was a weird one, perhaps symbolical in its own way, with all those twos and zeros, perhaps it hid an encoded message in its numbers. For someone else it was an ordinary day: they woke up, went to work, met their friends and so on. But for others it was a day to remember. In particular for the people who witnessed the police raids in what were considered the main offices of Indymedia Italy.
The independent media network called Indymedia did a great work during the G8 in Genoa publishing on its site pictures that proved that the police had acted in a violent way in repressing the various manifestations that took place in the Italian town last July. Indymedia also gave the opportunity to the Genoa witnesses to put their messages and writings online. Apart from the office of a labour union and the office of a member of the Democratic Jurists, social centers in Bologna, Taranto, Florence and Turin were raided with the aim of confiscating the archives of Indymedia Italy. The Carabinieri took away some videos, photographs and other material such as computer hard drives, saying that they were useful for their inquiry. The problem is that a group of Indymedia journalists had been nominated lawyers in the G8 trials, hence they needed part of the raided material to work on it and to use it as defence. The public prosecutor's office might have asked the materials to the Indymedia journalists without carrying out a proper raid after seven months from the G8, while the various inquiries are still going on and on, and while the truth about why the police dared attacking the peaceful protesters manifesting in Genoa rather than contrasting the action of the so-called Black Bloc, doesn't seem to come out and while the Italian right-wing government still tends to confound the peaceful protesters with dangerous terrorists. The main excuse used to justify the Indymedia raids is that Indymedia is not recognised as a public press agency or as a proper agency collecting independent journalists for all over the world, an agency that has provided very interesting documents to the commissions of inquiry about what happened in Genoa.
More shit followed when the Italian Ministry for Telecommunications said it intended to proceed to the revocation of the authorisation given to Radio Onda Rossa (Radio Red Wave), Rome's community radio since 1977, to broadcast its programmes by the 87.900 of frequency modulation. You see, freedom is something that often hurts governments.
But there are quite a few ways to express one's own dissent: to move on, to organise groups, to discuss and tackle the various issues and to gather all together and manifest. This is what Radio Onda Rossa did, this is what Indymedia did on 16th March, in Rome.
16/03/2002, Piazza Esedra, Rome.
2.30 p.m. No, it won't. Photographers are taking pictures of the police (a few policemen wear riot gear, with helmets and plastic shields as if they were going to war), to document the fact that the military forces are here, but will be absolutely useless.
3.15 p.m. And there are soooo many people in the square, talking and talking. There's a party like atmosphere all around, but nothing seems to move on.
3.44 p.m. Some of us dread of having been abandoned by the main organisers of the manifestation, but no, wait, wait a minute. There's a van down the road. We can see it coming on the background of Termini railway station. Music can be heard from a distance. Yes, they're finally here. The Indymedia van arrives first, toy televisions and cameras made out of cardboard boxes are clustered on its top and pretend to be shooting the people gathered in Piazza Esedra, who are cheering and clapping. Real TV screens adorn the van from which frenzied breakbeat rhythms ooze. The Radio Onda Rossa van follows and it's even more noisy, adorned with red banners, a huge silver papier-mâché microphone and a massive sound-system. A few other vans arrive, brass bands start playing, kids dancing and more and more people join in. The concept behind this manifestation is the same one behind the "Reclaim Your Street" parades, with one difference: the Reclaim Your Street manifestations occupied the streets with festive massive traffic jams of people partying around to reclaim their vital space; the Reclaim Your Media parade clogged the streets with a rave to reclaim freedom of speech, of expression and information, to manifest the right of being liberated by the dirty chains of censorship which is still lurking around the corner in the year 2002 and in a democratic country, Italy. When the parade starts moving through the streets of Rome, at around 5 p.m., Indymedia claims that there are 8000 people. The police helicopter buzzes in the clear blue sky, but nobody really cares. There are too many things to look at and too many issues to talk about. A guy dressed in an orange outfit, with a few tiny aerials coming out of the TV that adorns his head and with the Indymedia logo stamped on his T-shirt, rushes around, giving out orange cards on which people are encouraged to be their own hero, "Become Your Superhero" they claim. And after all it's not a bad idea: Italy seems to be trapped in the spires of the media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who's accidentally also the Italian prime minister and is consequently issuing draconian laws that favour only himself in his attempt to spread his monopoly all over the nation. A procession of kids arrive: they are dragging after them an old broken TV on which they glued a photocopied picture of Silvio Berlusconi and are ironically chanting pseudo-religious songs to his image. Pure, brilliant DIY. Everyone laughs and claps at their idea. Perhaps there might be even ten thousands people around by now, from so many different backgrounds and from different towns all over Italy, but the slogan is one and only, "RECLAIM YOUR MEDIA". It can be seen on all the Indymedia T-shirts around, on all the stickers given out and it can be heard blasting from the PA. The people around can hear it, the police can hear it. We hope the government can hear it too.