“bahnan wiehed iwaddab gebla”

As the world recession – caused by corporate greed – takes its toll over the people of Europe, one of the most noticeable things on the rise is protest. As people see their income being reduced and massive layoffs taking place while social benefits are being reduced, they are getting angrier. And rightly so. The problem is not anger but what one does with it.

Many times this is taking place in the form of violence, most notably but definitely not exclusively in Greece. Be it over students stipends, pensions or unemployment, more and more Europeans are taking the streets and having protests escalating to violence is becoming all the more frequent. Many times this is controlled by police who end up abusing their power. (For example the use of “kettling” is on the increase despite the controversy it caused since many peaceful protesters as well as passer-bys end up harmed).

From the law enforcement side, the only ethical solution is curbing the violence without the brutality. However, what I want to talk about is preventing the violence, rather than dealing with it. As much as I disagree with their violent stance, I also understand these people are not throwing Molotov bombs, breaking windows and burning cars just for kicks.

All hell breaks loose whenever the phrase “austerity measures” is mentioned. Obviously no one likes having his wage, stipend or pension reduces, or worse still ending up unemployed. However, it is not only that what is driving people towards violence. It’s the injustice.

While the “austerity measures” are taking place, the elite are not taking their share (which should be the major part) of the responsibility. Unfortunately for them, most Western European countries are democracies and even though attempts of media control sometimes not only take place but also succeed (Italy being most notable example), people are realizing this. Corruption is rife, and most CEO’s, bankers and politicians are immune from austerity. Knowledge of this, coupled with losing his job, turns an otherwise law abiding citizen into a human time bomb.

What about here in Malta? We haven’t seen political violence for decades and that is a positive thing. However, rather than protest what most Maltese are resorting to is grumbling and complaining – on newspapers, social media, schools and university and their place of work, even on bus stops. This seems to be giving politicians the impression that they can keep controlling and alienating the masses for ever. Thankfully we are not that stupid. Yes, thankfully, however there is a downside to this. The more and more we suppress the anger, the more it builds inside and the unexpected might easily take place at the most unpredictable moment.

We are still in time though. All that is needed is political will – loads of it actually. Politicians should first and foremost start by declaring a war on corruption. Not the usual farce, strong with the weak, but a real crackdown. This in itself will ease the financial burden on the Maltese people, but even more than that, it will also instill trust in politicians because weather they are realizing it or not, they are losing it (amongst other things, the number of non-voters in elections is on the increase). This will in turn have a soothing effect on the people as they start to realize something is being done. That at least, they are not paying for the mess created by the elite on their own.

People should also start taking the streets – non-violently of course. Venting one’s anger is not only healthy, but gives a timely warning to politicians that enough is enough.

Otherwise if the pressure on the human time bomb is too much for people to handle, it will detonate in a matter of minutes. In the wise words of a police officer, “bahnan wiehed iwaddab gebla” (it just takes one fool throwing a stone), before the elite wake up from their denial with visions of smashed windows and cars burning, coupled by the smell of blood.


Arriva Pinochet
A morte gli Ebrei
Il negro non commuove
Seig Heil

What makes this ‘slogan’ worrying is the fact that it wasn’t sung by a couple of disoriented teenagers. It was sung by police, the ‘forze del ordine’ of what many consider a democratic country – Italy. These words were chanted while the Police were beating people (the absolute majority of whom were non-violent) who protested against the G8 summit in Italy, July 2001.

More than 300,000 people turned up to protest against the way eight countries were deciding the fate of the world between the 20th and 22nh July 2001 in Genova. They came from various groups and organisations, Catholics, Greens, pacifists, leftists and human rights activists. None of them had any violent intentions except for a small group of 500, the black bloc. With whom the latter were affiliated is still a mistery. The reason for this is chilling in itself, since after the riots, after the police brutality and murder of Carlo Guiliani, out of the 250 people arrested there was not a single ‘black bloc’ member.

Different movements demonstrated in different streets. The 500 black bloc divided themselves and infiltrated all the groups. They went, created a riot and vanished in a couple of minutes. Yet, after they left the violence continued, In many circumstances, especially regarding Catholic movements, the protestors did not offer any resistance, yet they were savagely beaten by the Italian police.

Some other movements retaliated to this abuse. One of them was Carlo Giuliani’s movement, Carlo being the only fatality in the whole episode (towards which two police officers were intercepted saying ‘uno a zero per noi’). Giuliani’s group believed in passive resistance. They were considered as ‘disobedient’ but not violent. At least not before the police started assaulting them with tear gas, beating them and chanting slogans like the one mentioned above.

Yet, there was more to come. Groups of demonstrators rested (with permission) in schools, most notably Scuola Diaz. The police infiltrated the schools and beat the shit out of them, not only the demonstrators but also journalists and medics who happened to be there. Not a single person of them was black bloc.

There is still speculation who the black bloc really were. Some think they were infiltrated within the police, others claim they are neo-fascists with the deliberate intention of disrupting the protests. Others believe they were just hooligans. Whoever they were is not really important now. What is very significant though, is the fact, that when these people committed illegalities, even before the riots started (including destroying the pavement and collecting large stones as ammunition) the ‘forze dell ordine’ did absolutely nothing.

Such repression is expected (though never justified) in countries where there is a dictatorship or a brutal regime in power such as Iran, China or Myanmar. However it is extremely disturbing that all this happened in a so called democratic European country only nine years ago. It is also worth mentioning that Italy is under the same Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, in the present day.

The attacks on democracy on July 2001 should never be forgotten, definitely not in the near future. They are a reminder that even in a European democracy a government can use an iron fist on civilians just exercising their fundamental rights of assembly and expression.

The only good thing that could come out of this tragedy is learning from it.