As you may be aware, Europe these days is buzzing with protests against the bizarre, self-harming austerity measures that have been imposed on assorted less-deserving countries around the Eurozone, at the hands of assorted technocrats or willing middle-managers posing as politicians. On the 14th November workers and students turned out for a Europe-wide strike, one that was most notable for a number of incidents in Spain involving young kids on the wrong end of a baton.
Down in Rome on the other hand, things degenerated into the surreal, as running battles between riot police and protesters, mainly students, ended with quite a lot of tear gas and a large dose of controversy. The latter mainly began when newspapers began posting shots and videos of tear gas being fired at panicked protesters from the upper floors of the Justice Ministry, which is fairly embarrassing even by Italian standards,
The initial reaction of the police was to simply deny it, like we were back in the days when you could say that airplanes fell out of the sky for no apparent reason.
Unfortunately, Italian police do not appear to have realised that these days protesters carry phones, and that these phones can do smart technological stuff like record sound or video. Yes, even when it’s not pointing at you.
Faced with the unpalatable truth apparently doing the rounds on the internet, their heroic next step was to publish an official report. Conclusions? The rounds of tear gas were fired from the ground and rebounded from the buildings of the Justice Ministry. So that’s all cleared up then, the students say. All we have to sort out now is how this can be made to fit with the basic laws of physics.
The only thing that seems certain to me is uncertainty. Roughly it goes like this: if you think it’s ok to beat up protesters, who get what’s coming to them, then the tear gas was fired from the ground; if, on the other hand you think the Italian police are a bunch of right-wing chancers, the tear gas was fired from the ministry. Still, it would be nice to know the truth, although, of course, that’s the least likely outcome.
You might even conclude that this is exactly the sort of world you might want to write a thriller about