Notte Bianca Pt. 3 — Sara Speaks

Towards the end of the Rome trip, my dad was asking us what the best moment was on the trip so far. Without a second of hesitation I told everyone it was that moment on the top of the Spanish steps. I said I want to learn to make films just so I can recreate it. It was surreal, and really kind of beautiful, but at the same time really scary. We had been down there earlier and felt the beginnings of a horrible crush. When I was in school, I was in a crush at a football game. That was the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, I was on the outskirts of it and only experienced a moment of terrifying lack of movement, where I was wholly out of control and could only keep my arms to my side, not move them at all while the crowed moved me forward and back. At that game, a girl was left in a coma and I believe she died later. It was a pretty famous event, and it was the only football game I ever went to, just coincidentally. What happened was the University had decided the students weren’t going to be allowed to rush the field like they used to after every single winning game. So they blocked off the field, but the entire student section rushed to the field, and that tragedy unfolded. There were security men at each blocked off section at the bottom, and the one in front of me and my crowd of people saw what was happening and just let the crowd tear down the little barricade. The other security people didn’t figure that out, which is always what I think of when I think of that girl.

Anyways, back to Rome.

Such tension! That was why it was so incredible. And like I was saying, I think it’s because we had been down there and we were the only ones around us who understood that the people were probably creating a crowd crush. But to see this woman balanced on this man’s head, and such a mass of people, and people clearing a space in front of the ambulance, and the ambulance siren whaling — intense.

The only issue, though, is that could have been a police van instead of an ambulance. I thought it looked like a dark grey van, and later I saw white ambulances. Plus, the dark grey police vans were all over, and written on them was something about “mobile police station.”  So anyhow, the sight we saw could have been a police van.

And now back to Piazza Venezia. The friendly Italians I picked out to talk to were an easy guess. Two of the three guys had long hair, and the other one had a beard. The girl wore Birkenstocks and baggy clothes. But, much more importantly, one of the guys wore a “Rage against the machine” t-shirt, a telltale anti-Bush these-kids-are-on-the-same- page as me sign.  So, to add to Jack’s post, I have to say that the girl of this group of four told me some more at the end. The group protesting were futher left than any of the other Italian protest groups. They demanded they be able to march en masse from the piazza venezia to another area, where a sit-in was already going on while we all talked.  Anyhow, this group sort of said, and always says, well it’s our streets and even if we don’t get a permit, we want to march.  Finally, the police let them march in groups. That was what we were watching. One of the many smaller groups of these protestors marching.  I think it’s a shame they weren’t allowed to march, but then again: it’s notte Bianca. It’s like a group in Kansas City demanding they march right through the middle of Westport (which is now closed off and open containers are allowed within the Westport neighborhood)  at night when people are partying.  My point is that it was a show from the protestors, as well. But back to being flabbergasted: the amount of riot police and the 11 or so police vans who completely totally surrounded the piazza, were immense compared to these 30 protestors. But at the same time, the atmosphere was so calm. I didn’t want to stand in front of the riot police, but standing next to them talking to the Italians, I wasn’t worried at all. And I even walked in front of one of the lines of police (not the ones playing the marching game with the protestors, this is far away from them) and took a picture.

And another note on those nice Italian lefties.  I walked up to the rage against the machine t shirt guy and asked about the mass show of force. All four of their faces lit up, eyes wide, big smile, and the r.a.t.m. t shirt guy held out his hand to shake and sort of congratulate me and he said, “we were all just sitting here wondering if the tourists see this and think that it’s weird.”  It wasn’t that he was surprised we were left-leaning Americans, it was that I had walked up to them in the middle of their conversation about tourists like myself, and in so doing, answered the question they were discussing. It was one of those nice moments, for sure.  And I say that about the left-leaning Americans because 2 years ago I had a conversation with a Dutch guy in a bar in Amsterdam, who was just astounded that I thought the way I thought, that I even existed. I shared all of his views about my government. Hello! There are many sides to the story in our country! The Italian kids seemed to know this already. And wait: r.a.t.m. is an American group.

But still: have no fear: the Italians CAN’T STAND AMERICANS. No doubt about it. I’m glad to be gone from Rome, I really am. I was sick of their bitchy attitude. Sure, we met quite a few nice ones, but god forbid you want to ask a question in a store, or buy a glass of American champagne (Coke). The bottom line is, Italians can’t stand us and I was sick of them, Romans I should say, though, since I never left Rome. Oh! I should tell about the taxi driver who tried to rob me. Later..   I will tell you that I got to see my friend Heidi who is Norwegian and she confirmed this note about Italians. She said they don’t like Germans nor Americans. She said they were jerks to her until she spoke, and they would actually say, “oh, you’re okay. I thought you were American!” (Or German)  And now that we’re in Poland, well, Germans are much much more disliked than Americans. That’s a nice change. We’re not the bad guys here.

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