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Rome mayor wants to tax demos: I say "yes"! PDF Print E-mail
Aug 19, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Image The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, has raised eyebrows, and tempers, with a proposal to apply some sort of tax to major demonstrations held in the Eternal City. It is far from clear just how such a tax could be levied - who exactly would be expected to pay it? The organizers? Participants?. Opponents have reacted sharply, accusing him of trying to stifle democracy, not suprising since anyone remotely left of center here appears unable to forget that Alemanno comes from the far right of the political spectrum - the former Fascist party - and as a youth was pretty aggressive. And even some conservatives have expressed doubts. But the mayor may have a point.


Last year, 2009, there were 2.051 demonstrations in downtown Rome ( police statistics say 830 were political or union demos, 115 were student demonstrations, 91 involved sports fans, and the remaining 1,015 were of various types)and these included 65 marches through the city. According to the mayor, the costs borne by the city administration are enormous. Everytime there is a march by 10,000 people, he said, the city ends up spending something like 18,000 euros for overtime for city police, setting up barricades, preparing emergency sanitary services, rerouting buses, and cleaning up afterwards. For a march - the Italian word is "corteo" - of 30,000 people, the total would be 41,000 euros. And for a major demonstration involving 100,000 people or more, the city would have to dip into its non-bulging coffers for at least 100,000 euros, and so on.


Image Is this so outrageous? Furthermore, if organizers were forced to pay part of the costs, might not we see a reduction in the number of these demos and marches? For me, this is the main point. You have no idea the extent to which ordinary people's lives are disrupted by these protests, especially because even when a march is not involved, police often allow them to be staged smack in the middle of a major thoroughfare. Once I needed to do a series of errands in my neighborhood, Trastevere, and decided to take my motorbike to save time. Yeah! There was a fairly small demo by disgruntled part-time teachers outside the Education Ministry in Viale Trastevere. I was unable to turn left onto the avenue and in the end was forced to do a detour of some 10 kilometers before I was finally able to get home. I grew up in New York in a family with strong sympathies with organized labor and was taught not to cross a picket line. Well, Rome sure cured me of that. It is hard to have sympathies when protesters don't seem to care that other people have a desperate need to go about their own business.

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