Italians Protest US Expansion of Huge Military Base

February 17th, 2007 - by admin

BBC News & US Citizens for Peace & Justice in Rome and Florence – 2007-02-17 08:39:17

Italians March to Protest US Base Expansion
BBC News Online

Protesters have come from all over the country. Thousands of people are marching in the north-eastern Italian city of Vicenza against a planned extension of the US army base there.

Organizers say the majority of local people are opposed to US plans. They say Prime Minister Romano Prodi has ignored strong local objections.

Thousands of extra police are on duty in Vicenza for what has been planned as a peaceful march. There are fears that radical fringe groups will try to cause violence.

Vicenza’s mayor fears the march will be infiltrated by left-wing radicals from other EU states intent on causing violence — as happened in Genoa six years ago, when rioting during a G8 summit caused heavy damage, one death and many injuries.

Ministers Banned
Special trains and buses from various parts of Italy arrived in Vicenza for the protest march.

We love our town and we want to protect it — other people want to impose with violence a base that nobody wants
Local man

Many of them have been chartered by leftist parties and the Greens, members of Mr Prodi’s ruling coalition, although the prime minister has banned ministers from attending the march.

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says the centre-left government is embarrassingly split between those who want to respect the decision of the previous centre-right coalition to agree to Washington’s request, and those who would like to see the Americans out.

Thousands set off from the town’s railway station with banners such as “No To The Bases” and “America No Thanks”.

“We love our town and we want to protect it,” a local protester told the BBC. “Other people want to impose with violence a base that nobody wants.”

Schools and shops are closed and thousands of extra police are on duty. Police helicopters could be heard overhead.

The Americans established a military presence in Vicenza more than half a century ago.

President George W Bush wants to beef up the base, the headquarters of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, by transferring from Germany to Italy another 2,000 US soldiers. This would bring the total number of US troops stationed in Vicenza to nearly 5,000.

The base provides over 1,000 jobs to locals in Vicenza and injects millions of dollars into the local economy. A withdrawal could have serious local economic consequences.

“No Dal Molin, No War:”
Report on December Protest March

Stephanie Westbrook / US Citizens for Peace & Justice (Rome)

ROME — Somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people marched peacefully through the city of Vicenza, Italy on December 2, 2006 to say no to the proposed US military base at the Dal Molin airport, and to say no to war.

It was, in fact, one of the biggest demonstrations ever held in the city known for Andrea Palladio, thanks in large part to the tireless work of local organizers and despite the fear mongering by city officials, who had warned residents to stay inside their homes and keep the car in the garage and advised shop owners to close for the day.

These same local officials had been involved in secret negotiations with the former Berlusconi government, going back as far as two years, to turn over the Dal Molin to the US military in order to expand the existing base at Camp Ederle.

City residents became aware of the plan in May 2006 and mounted an incredible grassroots campaign. Residents of Vicenza and the surrounding area formed 9 citizens’ committees and held public assemblies, meetings, debates, protests and sit-ins. All this culminated in a national demonstration on December 2 with people coming from all over Italy.

The march started from near the existing base of Camp Ederle and continued for nearly 9Km past the site of the proposed base at the Dal Molin airport. It was a quite a sight, with young and old, radical and mainstream, all united in the conviction that another military base is not what Vicenza, Italy, nor the world needs.

At the head were families with kids, some in strollers, others being pulled in carts, all holding colorful balloons. They were followed by the 9 citizens’ committees and a sea of white “No Dal Molin” flags. From there on it was everything from scout groups and students to the centri sociali, from Donne in nero and Rete Lilliput to the political parties and trade unions. The various campaigns against US military bases throughout Italy were also present, including Camp Darby, Sigonella, Aviano and Sardegna.

Only a very small contingent of USC4P&J made the trip to Vicenza for the demonstration, in fact there were only two of us. But we did our best to be as visible as possible, with two large US peace flags, one of which stayed in Vicenza with the organizers.

We also handed out 300 flyers, gave several radio interviews, and were thanked by many for being there. Mention was made of our group on the local and national press the following day.

At the end of the march, protesters gathered in a park just past the Dal Molin for a short rally followed by a concert. After being denied a local referendum, the people had spoken with a resounding NO al Dal Molin.

The coordinators were able to unite a wide array of people spanning the political and cultural spectrum. And they also succeeded in attracting national attention. This was true grassroots organizing at its best.

Another US Military Base in Italy? Not in Our Name
John Gilbert / US Citizens Against War

FLORENCE — As peace activists and US citizens, the reports of plans to build a new US military base in Vicenza leads us to join the demonstration on December 2, 2006 to say NO to the proposed base at Dal Molin airport, and to say NO to war.

In addition to the 6000 bases in the US, our country has more than 700 military installations around the world, creating an unprecedented global network aimed at guaranteeing military, economic and political dominance.

These bases represent the strategy of forward presence, which has now become central to the preventive war doctrine. As a consequence, the host country becomes an indirect tool of permanent global war.

There are more than 20 US military bases in Italy, where their uses range from storing nuclear arms, in violation of the spirit of the non proliferation treaty, to extraordinary rendition flights as documented in the case of Abu Omar, to support of ongoing wars.

In fact, in the Pentagon’s recent announcement of troop rotations for Iraq, the only military personnel coming from bases outside the US will be from Vicenza, specifically the 173rd Airborne, the same brigade to be housed at the new base at Dal Molin airport.

As US citizens working for peace we are participating in the demonstration in Vicenza to declare our firm opposition to the new base at Dal Molin airport.

And in the spirit of Article 11 of the Italian constitution, “Italy repudiates war as an instrument offending the liberty of peoples and as a means for settling international disputes,” we also declare our rejection of a system that relies too often on a military “solution” to resolve conflicts.

We oppose this system that violates international law and treaties; that tramples human rights with secret prisons, illegal detention and torture; that consumes enormous quantities of resources. In order to lay the ground for a more secure world, we should, among other things, channeling military spending instead to initiatives that can contribute to satisfying the basic needs of the less privileged.

We are present here in Vicenza also knowing that other US citizens share our conviction that the militarization of our foreign policy is the wrong track.

In a recent survey in the US on confidence in foreign policy by the nonpartisan group, Public Agenda, and Foreign Affairs journal, almost 2 out of 3 responded that the rest of the world sees us in a negative light, and nearly 4 out of 5 think that our country is perceived as arrogant.

In addition, in the mid term elections of November 7, peace activists succeeded in adding a ballot measure on immediate withdrawal from Iraq in 162 legislative districts in the states of Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Illinois. The measure passed in all 162 districts, in some cases by as much as 80%.

Therefore, the demonstration in Vicenza against military bases and war is also a march in support of the majority of US citizens who want a change of course.

In fact, ask any peace activist in the US in what way citizens of the world can best support the peace movement in the United States, and they will tell you to do everything possible to force your own government to not support the failed policies of the US government.