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High Speed Turin-Lyon Train Runs on the Border of Italian Democracy

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In Italy the tension continues to rise around the high-speed project Turin -- Lyon (Tav). "Outside forces" is the writing that on July 30 opened the last protest against the Tav. For years the discussion about the usefulness of this project, born in the 80s, divided Italian public opinion. While on the one hand most politicians, majority and opposition, argue the importance of Tav to be in the public interest, on the other hand the local population continues to fight to denounce its uselessness.

The protests of those who oppose the construction of the new railway line, until now, have never been accepted by political institutions. The only result achieved after years of battling is: an entire mountain valley placed under military control. With armed men to guard a yard that has not yet opened. Is it unusual alacrity of the Italian government or the desperate attempt to save a project which already funded, in part, by the UE? Of course, after yet another clash between protesters and security forces, there are those who sounded the alarm of democracy.

"Here, today are violating every thing. Here is the border of democracy". With these words Heidi Giuliani, mother of Carlo who was twenty-three when he was killed by a policeman during G8 summit in 2001, gave a speech about two thousand people gathered on July 24 in Val di Susa (Piemonte) to protest against the Tav.

Ten years have passed since the death of Carlo Giuliani. But the image of that dead body, which went around the world, is still alive. "Never again" it was thought after those days of madness. No more suspension of democracy at the hands of security forces in a state of law. But today, faced with the umpteenth clash between protesters and police, Heidi Giuliani's words sound like an omen.

Two thousand law enforcement officials are regularly engaged in Val di Susa. A considerable number if you think that the Italian soldiers in Afghanistan are four thousand. But if the yard will be truly open, will remain so for the next 15/20 years. It is therefore natural to ask whether the Italian government thinks to militarize a valley for two decades. If it believe to entrust to the military the task of convincing the local population of the benefits of this project. Because faced with various protest of citizens, intellectuals and prominent members of scientific research, this is the only answer that the policy gave to the Italians.

While the government then gave the floor to the chief of police Manganelli (which in Italian means "batons", the irony of the language), the argument of who is in favour of the project has regularly been confuted for scientific and technical reasons that highlight the weaknesses. From an economic point of view, because the cost will exceed 22 billion euros. From a standpoint of freight, because the existing line is underused, and freight traffic on this director has plummeted for years. And, last but not least, from an environmental point of view, because the inhabitants of Val di Susa will see their land permanently damaged, upsetting the balance of its hydrogeological system, with 70 km of railway that passes through the mountains.

On July 3, seventy thousand people were given an appointment in Val di Susa to scream again "No Tav". But what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration turned into guerrilla warfare, with hundreds injured.

"They shot us". This is the first thing that the protesters said. "I was shot in the leg by a canister of tear, the boy in front of me was hit in the face". And to those who cannot believe that the police have shot at head height, they show their wounds.

The testimonies of those who attended the event told of elderly women who, after being hit by the smoke, were left on the ground by police busy chasing after those who fled into the woods. They tell of smoke containing CS tear gas, prohibited by international laws because of its toxicity. Launch of stinging liquid from water cannons used to evacuate people. Use by police with guns that shoot rubber bullets, forbidden, and use of a bulldozer to remove the protesters.

Some people called the situation a "war field" and the locals could not believe their eyes. "These were the places where I was playing as a child, those were days of celebration -- recalls a man in his seventies -- look at them today. It's terrible, a state of siege".

The clashes in Val di Susa are a confirmation of how in Italy, after the G8 Summit in 2001, the government manages the large demonstrations against the power. On the one hand, an indifferent press which wants to resolve everything in a list of good and bad. That screams in every major event to the Black Block danger, because it is easier, perhaps convenient, to explain the facts in the presence of a scapegoat. On the other hand, the police in riot gear. Men sent to fight a war among the poor. With best wishes of the Italian Authorities that are sitting in a chair to look at the performance of their failure. Again.