Italy – proliferation of forbidden behaviour

[] New powers given to local councils in the “security package” approved on 23 May 2008, under article 5 of law decree no. 92 (which came into force on 5 August and was converted into a law on 9 August 2008), allow them to issue orders in the fields of public order and security, to carry out security and judicial police functions and to monitor anything that is relevant for public order and security. The summer months have seen a number of councils adopting sanctions against all manner of behaviour (see Statewatch Vol 18 no 2).

The following is a translated extract from an article entitled “L’estate dei divieti. Spiagge, parchi e strade come caserme” (“The summer of prohibitions. Beaches, parks and streets like barracks”), published in the weekly anarchist bulletin Umanità Nova no. 27 of 7 September 2008:

"In the past, the first citizen [the mayor] could issue ‘acts that are attributed to him/her by laws and regulations in the field of public order and security’. Now the mayor is responsible for the surveillance ‘of anything that may concern public order and security, informing the prefetto [the police chief in a given town] in advance’. In this way, the mayors have the power to issue ordinances on anything that may concern “security and urban decorum”, imposing administrative sanctions, that is, fines and judicial seizures, on offenders. The Maroni [the interior minister] decree became law on 9 August and was immediately followed by a plethora of ordinances by mayors in cities and towns throughout the peninsula. The first victims of the ordinances were migrants and vagrants. In many cities (including Rimini, Alassio and Venice), street-selling by foreigners, including those with a license, was forbidden. In several places, such as Rome, Venice or Florence, it was prohibited to carry merchandise in a big sports bag, plastic bag or similar items.

In some cases, local traffic police officers (as happened several times in Rimini) unleashed veritable manhunts on the beach to ensure that prohibitions were respected. In Ostia, one of the most frequented beaches on the Tyrrhenian, a hunt targeting hawkers was “strengthened” with the help of surveillance by helicopters flying over the coast at low altitude to detect “sellers of counterfeit labels”.

After Chinese masseuses were banned from the coasts in Tuscany and Romagna (with regional laws approved for this purpose by the ‘red’ Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany) through a circular order by Francesca Martini, the under-secretary for Welfare, throughout the national territory, massages given by migrants were forbidden due to the risk that the “aesthetic or therapeutic services” are offered by people who “may not possess adequate experience”.

However, the hunting of vagrants and beggars (something not seen since the first half of the 1800s) was the main dish served up in the summer of “ordinances”. First off the mark was the mayor of Assisi, who immediately forbade begging and “nomadism”, drawing praise from the monks as beggars are perceived as driving tourists away from the basilica and the tomb of Saint Francis.

Meanwhile, on 10 August, following the Maroni decree, 2,412 homeless people were identified in a single day in Milan. In Pescara, Bologna, Florence, Padua, Verona, Turin, Trieste and Cortina, the council authorities decided to impose very heavy fines on those begging to raise enough money to get through the day. In Verona, the proceeds of begging are confiscated as well, as is any other money found on beggars.

Then, there is a series of other ordinances that concern so-called “urban decorum”. The frontrunner in this specialty is Florence, which has always been riven by the feuding of the PCI/PDS/DS/PD [the leading Communist and then centre-left parties].

On 11 August, the urban police’s regulation, euphemistically entitled “Norms for civil coexistence in the city”, came into force. Among other things, it stipulates that it is forbidden to lie down in the street, wash one’s armpits in public fountains, tie a bicycle to a bench, feed pigeons, play with a ball or frisbee in the street and public parks, beating towels on balconies, cleaning windscreens or asking to have one’s windscreen cleaned at traffic lights, “indecorously” eating a meal in public, throwing cigarette butts on the ground (although there aren’t any ashtrays in the street yet, etc.).

Such imagination has had its imitators in several other parts of the peninsula. In Viareggio, Capri, Amalfi, Riccione, Forte dei Marmi, Venezia, Alassio and Taormina, it is forbidden to wander with one’s top off, other than on the beach. Drinks in glass containers are prohibited in the evening in Pisa, Ravenna, Genova, Monza, and Brescia. [There is] zero tolerance for smokers in Is Aruttas, in the province of Oristano, and whoever smokes on the beach risks a 360 Euro fine. Beaches in general have become places that are not easy to visit. Across Tuscany it is forbidden to lay down one’s towel less than 5 metres away from the shore and sand castles are also forbidden because “they obstruct the passageway” and this is also the case for playing with a ball or bats and a tennis ball.

In Ravenna, meanwhile, whoever bathes in the sea after eight pm is to be punished with a 1,000 euro fine. All public spaces are regulated. In Novara, access to parks and gardens is forbidden: to groups comprising more than two people between 23:30 and 6 in the morning”, and those transgressing are to be punished with a fine of up to 500 Euros. In Voghera, the ordinance proposed by the local police council officer, Vincenzo Giugliano (of Alleanza Nazionale), limits itself to prohibiting the use of benches to groups of more than three people. But there is no limit to this frenzy of limits. In Eboli, the mayor has introduced a fine of 500 Euros for effusive behaviour in a car. Cortina will clear its city centre streets of “false social promoters”. To counter paedophiles, the Trento town council has prohibited the filming of children in swimming pools. Finally, close to Milan, Trezzano sul Naviglio has established a Sex Tax (500 Euros), applying it to those drivers who stop for a moment or carry out sudden manoeuvres in areas where prostitution is practised.”

Umanità Nova, no.27 of 7 September 2008