Thousands of people took part in sit-ins in Rome, Milan, Florence, Turin, Bologna, Naples and other cities around Italy as part of the wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations sparked by the death of African-American man George Floyd at the hands of US police.
Protesters in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
Protesters knelt in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that a Minneapolis police officer pushed his knee into Floyd's neck as he lay face down on the ground.
“We can't breathe,” shouted the crowd in Rome's Piazza del Popolo on Sunday.
8 minutes, 46 seconds is a long time. pic.twitter.com/kgHBj3SPCk
— Jessica Phelan (@JessicaLPhelan) June 7, 2020
As well as remembering black victims of violence in the US, demonstrators also called for Italy to address its own injustices.
In Florence on Saturday, American artist and activist Justin Randolph Thompson urged demonstrators to remember the 2018 killing of Idy Diene, a Senegalese man who was shot a few minutes away from where the protest took place outside the US consulate.
Seven years earlier, two Senegalese men, Samb Modou and Diop Mor, were shot dead by a far-right extremist in Piazza Dalmazia. A third man, Moustapha Dieng, was left permanently disabled by the attack.
'The colour of my skin is neither a crime nor a weapon': Daniele Oduro (L), a student in Florence, with fellow protesters. Photo: Adriana Urbano
In Milan on Sunday, protesters marched from the Piazza Duca D'Aosta towards the street where, in 2008, 19-year-old Abdul William Guibre was beaten to death by a father and son who shouted racial slurs and claimed he had stolen from their bar.
— Tia Taylor ?????? (@MissTiaTaylor_) June 7, 2020
“We are not here to exclusively express our solidarity for what happens in the United States, because […] lately racism has become institutionalised in Italy,” said Antonella Bundu in Florence, an Afro-Italian activist who became the first black woman to run for mayor of the city in 2019.
Bundu warned against the “infantilization of black people in Italy”, who she said were seen as fit only for agricultural and domestic labour. “Where are equal opportunities?” she asked the crowd.
'We shall remember our friends' silence': Jenlece Phillips protests in Florence. Photo: Adriana Urbano
In Rome, Italian-Haitian fashion designer Stella Jean called for reform of Italy's ius soli citizenship law, which prevents children born in Italy to foreign parents from claiming Italian nationality until they're at least 18.
“It's not possible that my kids have to suffer the same threats that I endured as a girl… It's absurd that they don't have full rights, yet they speak Roman and are children of this city and this country,” she said, stating that the Italian constitution was supposed to protect freedom and equality for all.
And union leader Aboubakar Soumahoro, who has called for recognition of migrant farm workers' rights beyond the temporary amnesty that Italy recently announced in response to the coronavirus crisis, questioned: “How many people in our society can't breathe?”
Placards in Piazza del Popolo in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
“It's really hard to live here,” said Senegalese immigrant Morikeba Samate, one of thousands of people to have arrived in Italy after making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
Placards called for Italy to protect others making the same crossing, who have become a favourite target of the Italian far-right.
— Alessia (@nerymiaa) June 6, 2020
In compliance with coronavirus guidelines from the Italian government most protests remained stationary, while organizers urged participants to wear face masks and maintain social distance.
There were no reports of violence or damage from any of the demonstrations.
— stefano angelelli (@angelhelly) June 6, 2020
More protests are planned in the coming week, including in Parma, Lecce, Treviso and Caserta.
Adriana Urbano contributed reporting from Florence and Jessica Phelan from Rome, with AFP.