• The San Juan Daily Star

Protesters march in Rome, chanting: ‘We are not the G-20, we are change.’

Demonstrators march to demand action on the climate crisis during the G20 Summit in Rome, Oct. 30, 2021.

By Elisabetta Povoledo and Emma Bubola

Several thousand protesters marched in Rome Saturday afternoon, dancing, drumming and singing “Bella Ciao,” a song identified with the resistance movement during World War II.

They vented their rage and disenchantment with the current world order: “You are the G-20, we are the future,” they chanted, as they wound down a Rome avenue, setting off red and green flares.

At least 5,000 people joined the march, according to police officials, although organizers said the number was more than twice that. Group of 8 major industrialized nations summit in Genoa, Italy that was marred by rioting. It is also a moment of tension between authorities and opponents of the Italian government’s coronavirus vaccination requirements, which have resulted in violent clashes.

“The level of attention is maximum,” said Giovanni Borrelli, a local government official, adding that 5,500 extra law enforcement officers had been deployed this weekend in response to the protests.

Protesters on Saturday represented a broad range of groups and causes: students and vaccine skeptics, labor union members and climate change activists, Romans opposing the government health pass required for workers and representatives of groups such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

“It’s Oct. 30, and it’s super hot. And that scares me,” said Valeria Cigliana, 18, one of the many people voicing discontent over what they see as inaction on climate change. Wearing a T-shirt on a warm autumn afternoon, Cigliana spoke in front of a banner that read “The alternative to G20 is us.”

That sentiment was expressed time and again by protesters.

Holding a handmade cardboard placard that read “No $ for instruction, no future for the country,” Sara Degennaro, a 20-year-old archaeology student, said the G-20 leaders did not “represent the concerns we face in our future.”

Naida Samonà, 39, who traveled from Sicily to attend the protest, said, “In a locked-down city behind closed doors, they decide on our skin.” Sicily was ravaged by a cyclone in the past week, she noted. “The climate crisis is happening under my eyes every day,” she said. “We are clearly on the brink of collapse.”

Felipe Gonzalez, 27, who came from Spain to join the protest, was dressed in a skeleton costume and held an inflamed paper planet and a banner that read “Capitalism is death.”

“We are destroying the planet, and the leaders do not do anything to address that,” he said.

Some protesters had optimistic views. Sara Mastrogiovanni, a librarian from Rome, brought her 8-year-old daughter Ambra to the march. “I want her to better understand the world,” she said, adding: “And I want her to see that we all have a right to express our ideas. It’s the only way to arrive at solutions.”

His face streaked with green, Mauro Cioci, a 19-year-old high school student, arrived with friends from the Tuscan city of Pistoia to march. Many days, he said, he is pessimistic about what lies ahead. “But on days like today,” he said, looking around at the thousands in the crowd, “I am optimistic.”

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