In Italy, the protests have been spurred on not only by the increasingly repressive and openly racist anti-immigration legislation but also by recent racist attacks on migrants. One such incident we highlighted recently and the workers that fled the racist violence in Rosano have been at the forefront of helping organise the campaign (see the “Tangerines and olives don't fall from the sky” statement by the Assembly of African workers of Rosarno in Rome below).
Amongst the events in more than 60 towns and cities across Italy will be prison officers in varese being offered an 'ethnic' lunch; in Trieste migrants will spend the day removing racist graffiti from public buildings; Bologna is hosting an exhibition of photos of the faces of migrants; and in the squares of Milan the public will be able to have foreign language lessons.
Italian call-out: "What would happen if the 4.5 million immigrants now living in Italy DECIDED to go on strike for one day? And what if also millions of Italians tired of racism will support them? And what if millions of Australians also tired of racism will support them? The 'Primo marzo 2010′ committee is organizing a major non-violent protest to let the public opinion understand the decisive role of migrants to help our society good functioning. The 'First in March 2010' Committee is organizing a major non-violent protest to let the public opinion understand the decisive role of migrants to help our society good functioning. This movement was born of mixed race and is proud to bring together Italians, foreigners, second generations, and whoever shares the rejection of racism and discrimination against less lucky people. This movement was born of mixed race and is proud to bring together Italians, foreigners, second generations, and whoever shares the rejection of racism and discrimination against people less lucky. We chose yellow as our march colour, because it is considered the colour of change and for its political neutrality: in fact, yellow doesn't refer to any political line-up. We chose as our march yellow colour, Because it is considered the colour of change and for its political neutrality: in fact, yellow does not refer to any political line-up."
In France, where the European initiative originated last year, more than 70,000 people have joined a Facebook group supporting the day of action. Demonstrations and pickets are planned outside town halls between 12.00 and 14.00 across the country and people are being invited to buy nothing for the next 24 hours in solidarity with the migrants. Five French unions, including the CFDT, FSU et Unsa, are supporting the protest.
One of the event's organisers in France, Reims deputy mayor Ali Aissaoui told TF1 News: "The current government does not seem to be aware of the positive impact of immigration. Sometimes I wonder what people will think of my children in 15 years' time. If they are given contemptuous looks and made to prove that they belong here, I'd rather raise them elsewhere."
French call-out: "On 1 March 2010: Take Action by ceasing to eat and/or work. For 24 hours, not to participate in economic activity in the enterprises, associations in the public service, in schools and colleges, in universities, in the hospitals, in shops, in industry, in construction, in agriculture, services, media, in politics ... For the first time in France, we decide to do not participate in the life of the city. In this absence, we need to mark our presence."
“Tangerines and olives don't fall from the sky”
from the Assembly of African workers of Rosarno in Rome (Italy, January 2010)
On 31 January 2010 we met to form the Assembly of African workers of Rosarno in Rome. We are the workers who were forced to leave Rosarno after we demanded our rights. We were working in inhumane conditions. We lived in abandoned factories, without water or electricity. Our work was underpaid. We used to leave the places where we slept every morning at 6, only to go back at night at 8 for 25 euros [about £22], not all of them ending into our pockets. Sometimes we could not managed to get paid after a day of hard work. We were going back empty-handed and our body bending with tiredness. For many years we have been discriminated, exploited and threatened in all sort of ways. We were exploited during the day and chased around at night by the sons of our exploiters. They beat us up, threatened us, pursued like beasts, kidnapped, some of us disappeared for ever.
They shot us as a sport or in someone’s interest. We continued to work. In time we became easy targets. We couldn’t take it any more. Those of us who had not been wounded by bullets, were wounded in their human dignity, in their pride as human beings.
We could not wait any more for some help which would never arrive, because we are invisible, we don’t exist for this country’s authorities. We made ourselves visible, we went into the street to shout that we exist.
The people didn’t want to see us. How can anyone demonstrate if he doesn’t exist?
The authorities and the police arrived and they deported us from the town because we were not safe any more. The people of Rosarno were hunting us, lynching us, organised now in real chasing squads.
We were put in detention centres for immigrants. Many of us are still there, others went back to Africa, others are scattered around in the towns of Southern Italy.
We are in Rome. Today we have no job, no place to sleep, no belongings and no wages, which have not been paid by our exploiters.
We say we are part of the economic life of this country, but the authorities don’t want to see or listen to us. Tangerines, olives, oranges don’t fall from the sky. They are in the hands of those who pick them.
We had managed to get a job which we lost simply because we demanded to be treated as human beings. We did not come to Italy as tourists. Our work and our sweat are useful to Italy as they are to our families, who have placed many hopes on us.
We demand from the authorities of this country to meet us and listen to our demands:
We demand that the residence permit which was given to the 11 African men wounded in Rosarno for humanitarian reasons, be given to all of us, victims of exploitation and of our irregular situation which left us without a job, abandoned and left behind in the streets. We want the government of this country to face its responsibilities and guarantee us the possibility of working with dignity.
- Assembly of African workers of Rosarno in Rome.