Bologna, Italy’s Protest Parade

Bologna, Italy, June 20 05. The longest, the biggest, the strongest, the loudest and craziest antiprohibitionist street party demonstration in the world took place in Bologna under the motto ‘fasten your belly and grow your head.’
The sound of over thirty music trucks coming from Italy, France and Holland shook Bologna at 400,000 watts. At the beginning of the gathering in the beautiful Margherita Park, a violent shower made it possible to overcome the terrible heat and to enjoy a very pleasant night of the first summer Saturday. Californian turtles were swimming in the park lake as reggae, techno and psytrance music played.

The street rave antiproibizionista has always been a political demonstration and a party but has been ticking as a time bomb against prohibition during the whole year in Bologna. The demonstration, attended by over 100,000 people, is supported by a large coalition of different individuals and groups that are operating under the acronym of MDMA, which translates as ‘the mass movement against prohibition’. The umbrella group includes doctors, nurses, social workers, activists, and consumers of cannabis and soft drugs.

Everything was extremely organized with water and toilet provisions, health care units, psychologists and surgeons, drug help and testing. The local police showed quite admirable restraint and care for the public safety. This year was a long march; the parade route was 7 miles, and the crowd itself stretched over one mile! The thundershowers that preceded the parade this year did not shrink the numbers but cooled everyone down as the parade moved in 38 degree Celsius temperatures (that’s over 100 degrees F). Past parades have seen marchers expire and die from dehydration and sunstroke.

The Mayor had reluctantly accepted the decision of the police to allow the demonstration. The mood in the community was one of resistance as the Bologna’s Mayor had outlawed the serving of beer in beer gardens and outdoor patios. Greens and the Communist Party were also irked that their activities were being restricted. The powerful gay community was indignant that the Italian Miss Alternative celebration was prohibited as a consequence of the outdoor party ban. The gay community responded with some of the best truck floats and music caravans of the ‘antiproibizionista’ street parade of 2005.

The next event, the decennial (10th) Bologna event of the toking people, is already scheduled for Saturday June 26, 2006. Plans in next year’s event include a town forum including speakers from Maastricht, Holland, San Francisco, and Vancouver to talk about cannabis distribution in those places. This is an invitation to all the readers of Cannabis Culture to come to Bologna, Italy the next weekend of June 26th for the most exciting cannabis march and demonstration on earth!

The antiprohibitionist rave of Bologna is and was always quite different from the traditional political demonstrations of the new global movements. The organizers of the demonstration act under the label of Livello 57, a group of former squatters who got their place from the previous administration at the former Repair Hall of the Central Railways Station.

Personal possession is allowed in Bologna. The legalization occurred, curiously enough, during the leadership of the right wing coalition that had conquered the historically left-wing ‘red town’. In the recent election, the mayor defeated the right-aligned Mr. Guazzaloca, a friendly looking butcher who had previously headed up the local government, which is by its diverse political representatives somewhat of a coalition.

Mr. Guazzaloca was successful in keeping the influence of the neofascists quite low profile under his administration. The council legalized most of the youth centers where controversial activities took place. Some people might be right that Guazzaloca was a fantastic laissez-faire politician. Then a feeling emerged in Bologna that the city should be similar to Amsterdam. Guazzaloca had few allies in the alternative community so Bologna accepted the insinuations of his left-wing rival, Cofferati. Cofferati noticed that even people in his government would prefer to have the looser Amsterdam-like social regulations.

As the chief of the trade unions, Cofferati is used to having things thrown at him during general strikes. With the new global movement he tried to be nicer but he’s always been terribly uptight. Mr. Cofferati did everything he possibly could to annoy the people who made up the District of Pleasure, known for its pleasant beach life since the time of Federico Fellini’s glory (circa 1960). Cofferati, now depicted as a beer-conservative man, forbade the selling of light alcohol drinks in the center of town after 9 pm. That new rule is encouraging hash and marijuana sales though, with the bonus that cannabis is easier to conceal and healthier than alcohol.

The question of public disorder is tackled in totally irrational ways and so the ‘degradation’ of the area has become a very recurring argument in political quarrels.

Flyers, stickers and handouts from the parade.Flyers, stickers and handouts from the parade.The Illegal
Cannabis Market

Italy has experienced a rocketing supply of good marijuana produced in Switzerland and bad quality grass from Albania. Standard grass is normally better than the average Moroccan hash that is sold on the streets by immigrant dealers (who are very often caught and sent to the deportation centers). There is also a rise in the availability of cocaine and ecstasy. This new situation has been the catalyst for a Copernican revolution in the perception of harm reduction in the youth scene. People wanted testing kits for detecting possible dangers in pills. Hash and marijuana speakeasies, called coffeeshops (more properly called ganja mats), operated behind small curtains during parties.

Bologna leads Italy with the most grow and head shops. In a few places you can buy hash and marijuana. The part of the trade on the streets, like in the University area, is not really recommended. There is no major risk but you could experience some annoyance from the police for buying small quantities. Some of the North Africans or ?punk beasts? sell low quality or terrible stuff. Some informal hash and grass retailing takes place during harvest, and seeding parties happen at Livello 57 via Muggia 9 and in the new concert hall in the outskirts. So you can reckon that once in a month there might be good quality marijuana at almost legal conditions.

At some automatic dispensers it’s possible to buy rolling papers, even at night, and although almost nobody smokes tobacco in Italy, there are all kinds of paraphernalia at the tobacconist’s shops.

Flyers, stickers and handouts from the parade.It’s Bologna!

Italians tend to drink wine at lunch and dinner and eat heartily in festive spirit. Antipasti, noodles, meat or fish with vegetables and a cake are followed by coffee and occasionally grappa (quite strong liquor) or lemoncello, a lemon alcoholic drink. Wine is mostly of good quality. What makes Bolognese cuisine famous are the hand-made pastas: tagliatelle band noodles, tortellini, and ravioli; and passatelli, which are dumplings made of local Parmesan cheese, eggs & flour served in a soup. Parma cheese and row ham are known worldwide. You can get these foods anywhere in the world but here in and around Bologna you can savor the real thing!

Although Bologna is an expensive city there are some good and cheap trattorias like Fantoni, in the Pratello Quarter, which is famous for the many beer and wine pubs. Close to the main street via Indipendenza is the Trattoria Il Rosso Largo Respighi with some ten menus. An extremely pleasant and cheap Greek eatery called To Steki is recommended. The Place at Piazza Verdi with its veranda facing the City Theatre is a privileged view on the drug scene. Here you can see all the freaks living in the middle of the University ranging from the underdog to Professor Umberto Eco. You can purchase and smoke outside the big pubs. Actually lots of police cameras are set up in this area and in front of the best candy and liquor store, Drogheria Calzolari via Petroni 9 where Stefano Del Fiore, Bolognese poet and wine expert, will introduce you to the arts of Barolo and pinot gris. Mr. Del Fiore has translated into the Bolognese language, ?Omar Khayham?, a Persian poet of the Middle Ages famous for his odes to wine and water.

But around 8:30 pm he will close his fine liquor store, bending his head to the orders of the mayor who hectors all not to hang around in the streets.

Flyers, stickers and handouts from the parade.The Legal
Italian Cannabis

?Canva? is the most known Bolognese word and stands for the importance of cannabis industry in the middle ages. The Holy Petronius, the Saint considered the founder of Christianity, is illuminated in a most interesting fresco in the central Via Indipendenza that shows hemp was somehow mandatory at that time.

As industrial hemp was rediscovered in Western Europe the Italian police were in panic. In order to make low THC hemp legal, Italians thought to do it better than other Europeans. There are a dozen low THC varieties that are allowed to be cultivated in Europe.

The Italian government commission around 1995, the reported the Italian police were upset with hemp plants on the fields and could not stand leaving the fields uncut. They wanted every plant equipped with some bright colors like the highway signals, or some other outrageous requirement. This Attila feeling of the police, quite psychotic, was transferred to some scientists that were eventually ordered to manipulate the appearance of hemp plants by bombing them with gamma rays. The result was the new Italian variety red petiole of virtually no commercial or recreational use.

Flyers, stickers and handouts from the parade.Drug Laws in Italy:
Right or Wrong,
Cannot be a Crime

The Italian drug laws are considered quite liberal for European standards after the referendum of 1993 that decriminalized personal use. But most of the actions people undertake to make this use possible are considered criminal acts, like passing, probably the most common crime in the world. No joint, or canna as we call it in Italy, is ever out!

The Fascist Party of Mr. Fini, the Italian Foreign Minister, is pushing the Berlusconi government to approve a bill on drugs that abolishes any distinction among marijuana and heroin or cocaine, and introduces penalties for very small quantities, also favoring hard drugs versus marijuana. ?It’s not soft, it is a drug? is the motto of the National Alliance, nicknamed as the National Abstinence Movement, led by a gang of former fascists like Minister Mirko Tremaglia, of the Hitlerite Republic of Sal?, the last stronghold of Mussolini in Italy before his execution by the partisans. As a matter of fact, the flame of the burial of Mussolini is still the icon of the party that pretends to condemn his fascist origins and that jeopardizes Italian tokers.

If the bill of Mr. Fini, the Italian foreign minister, is approved, the jail population will at least double. The Justice Minister, Mr. Castelli of the Northern League, recently uttered that the 60,000 inmates could become 400,000. The League’s icon, the Rose of the Alps, is very similar to the hemp leaf.

This year the Antiprohibizionista Street Parade was dedicated to Joe Ales of Pantelleria (the most southern island of Europe), who got caught by his local police with three small marijuana plants. He killed himself after being labeled in the local press as a dangerous gangster.

Flyers, stickers and handouts from the parade.No Drugs,
No Future

The Antiprohibizionista event also had a town hall at Cappella Farnese, at the Commune of Bologna. There was a forum about the future dimensions of drugs in a globalized world where there is increasingly a dual use of legal or illegal products for recreational or therapeutic means. The discussion was lead by the German sociologist Gunter Amendt, known in Germany for his enlightening 1968 book Sexfront. His actual work was explained in a lecture around prohibition and social control strategies. His latest work has been ‘No Drugs No Future; Drugs in the Age of Social Anxiety’. As Mr. Amendt puts it, ?everything has been told, now it’s time to act politically?. Amendt insists that legalizing marijuana is the first step of a drug policy based on practical reason.

Amendt, who was a long time consultant of the Swiss and German parliaments, told the Bolognese and Roman public about the paradigm shift on drug evaluation, also concerning legal substances like alcohol and tobacco.

Mr. Alberto Ronchi, Culture Minister of the Region, recently said that the street rave parade against prohibition is to be viewed as a great event, regardless of possible complaints. Promptly, Mayor Cofferati suggested to Ronchi he could have the parade in his town instead of Bologna. The fix is in however: the antiproibizionista street parade number will be hanging ten years in 2006.

Won’t you join Italy and Bologna next year at the best anti-prohibitionist outdoor festival in Europe?Flyers, stickers and handouts from the parade.

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