italy demonstrations

The movement, founded a month ago on the rejection of hatred embodied by the leader of the Italian extreme right, took like a powder trail. In Rome, this Saturday, December 14, he will be counting his strength.


In Rome, this Saturday, December 14, in the famous Piazza San Giovanni, the most imposing square in the Eternal City, the Italian “sardines” will test their credibility. How many will they be, pressed together: 100,000, 200,000, 1 million? All hopes are allowed after their tremendous series of successes throughout the Peninsula, from Livorno to Bologna, from Catania to Rimini, from Florence to Naples, where they found themselves, spontaneously, even in the rain as in Milan and Modena….

Puppets or revolutionaries? Straw fire or sustainable politics? Fragile Magma or last chance for democracy? But how did these “sardines” come about? The inventive spirit of four Bolognese friends in their thirties, very active and very well integrated into their professional lives, but free of any political commitment. They send each other Facebook messages and tweets: “Did you see? Matteo Salvini comes to Bologna on November 14. We must make him understand that he is not welcome…

From this comes a short text of a few lines in which, in the name of antifascism, antipopulism and anti-racism, our four young Bolognese invent a kind of non-shouted, even silent flash-mob, deprived of any sign of recognition such as a flag, a banner, a slogan, except a sardine drawing.


15,000 in Bologna, 40,000 in Florence

Why the sardine? Mattia Santori, 32, the most media-intensive of the four young people, has had the opportunity to explain it a thousand times:

“We wanted to be “tight as sardines” to impress Salvini. »

Immediately said, immediately done. Wherever “Il Capitano” moves, silent, discreet, even elegant masses gather without saying a word but doing everything to give an impression of strength and determination. Disconcerting. The “sardines” were 15,000 on November 14 in Bologna, 40,000 on November 30 in Florence, 25,000 on December 1 in Milan – Salvini’s birthplace. They explode all over the Peninsula. With as a final challenge the general mobilization of December 14 in Rome.

How many “sardines” will head for the capital? The bets are off. But many are already delighted to be able to greet, by opening their eyes, but avoiding any hasty judgment, the appearance on the bleak scene of Italian populism of this living and unexpected movement, still indefinable, which has been haunting the beautiful squares for almost four weeks and resembles a deliberately silent human wall, instinctively set against populist rhetoric.


In the aftermath of the Roman demonstration, on 15 December, it will be time for the first “general states” of the movement. With what idea? That of taking stock, still in the capital, of the historical political breakthrough of a poor fish if ever there was one, but popular, robust and invincible, according to tradition? To move from spontaneous flash-mob activism to something more structured? To found a genuine political party? To give more simply voting instructions for the regional election in Emilia Romagna on 26 January – a decisive event for the centre-left, which sees a Democratic Party candidate facing a right-wing competitor carried at arm’s length by Salvini?


“No, none of that,” says Stephen Ogongo, 44, spokesman for the Roman sardines. For all we know, we’ll just exchange impressions over pizza and a drink. “Originally from Kenya, Stephen arrived in Rome twenty-five years ago to study communication science. He created an anti-racist association, Cara Italia, and became a journalist. And now he “manages” the capital’s “sardines”.


“A party? No, thank you.”

Mattia Santori, the now famous founder of the “sardines”, agrees. For him, the idea is not to give instructions, to play the pilot fish of the left, trying to exploit the extravagant popularity of the movement – according to a Demos & Pi poll published in “la Repubblica” on 8 December, one Italian in four would gladly vote for a “sardine” in the next legislative elections.

No, the objective is rather to “create a physical presence in the Italian squares of all anti-populists, antifascists and anti-racists”, of all “refractory to the politics of hatred, insult and discrimination”:

“A party? No, thank you, even if we realize that if Salvini started to drop in the polls it was because of our “sardines”. »

“Salvati da Salvini” (“Save yourself from Salvini”) is their most effective slogan, notes historian Miguel Gotor, who is also a left-wing activist. According to him, the Italian “sardines” have invented a “new political phenomenon, never seen before in the West”, capable of “mobilizing the other Italy, Italy non-populist”, by constituting a kind of “democratic reserve army”, which can be “mobilized if necessary”. What do you mean? “In the event of a Salvinian victory in the upcoming legislative elections, which would probably be followed by an authoritarian turn. »

Seeing in the “sardines” the symbol of the deficiencies of the left has become a real national sport in the peninsular press. With the idea that this “anti-authoritarian blessing has fallen from the sky”, as ex-Senator Emanuele Macaluso says. This confirms the fact that Italy remains a major political laboratory. Innovative, there is no doubt about it, but in addition to that, there are some sure values as accompaniment music, such as the famous Italian Resistance song, “Bella ciao”, which has never been sung so much.