Last night, I participated in my very first march across a city. Here in Florence, my host mom Francesca and other strong women she attends a women’s group with, organized a massive march from the Piazzale Michelangelo to the city center, the Piazza della Repubblica. This march was to show our solidarity with the two female American students that accused the Carabinieri (the military-level police force) of rape on September 6th. This march, was freaking amazing.
I’ve wanted to do marches before, like the Women’s March in the Twin Cities this past year, but I was in Wisconsin and wasn’t able to make it. It’s kind of amazing that it worked out for me to join my first march here in Florence, with my host mom leading the charge with her friends.
When Francesca told me about the “manifestation,” I had no idea what to expect. I was thinking like maybe 100 women at the most marching with us to the city center, and I was very wrong. Hundreds of women and men joined the march through the city, carrying signs and shouting different phrases in Italian. I thought me and Francesca would march together somewhere towards the front or middle or side. But no, when we arrived and she found her group, she invited me to stand directly in the front, helping to hold the first banner.
I wasn’t expecting that, and I was getting more and more anxious by the time that we had begun to march. I didn’t know if I was going to get arrested or if riots were going to break out (not sure why they would, I was thinking worst-case scenarios). Our schools in the US tell us not to get involved with protests or political events with large crowds because they can be very risky. But, I trust Francesca, and I trusted that if anything were to happen that she would be there for me.
We began marching around 9pm, walking the route that the two American students would have taken to get home if they had walked, and not received a ride from the Carabinieri. We marched, and chanted, and were followed by photographers and videographers.
I didn’t take many pictures or videos because I felt a little uncomfortable doing that in the front of the line, I would have preferred the middle. I wish I would have gotten some cool shots of all the people that attended and stood together, because it was amazing. It was amazing to hear the chanting in unison, the strength in the voices of these women, the anger that they share against what happened. It’s a horrible & disturbing abuse of power (among a host of other awful things).
It’s funny, because even though we spoke entirely different languages, we were all walking and standing up for the same thing, and that made the language barrier much less frightening the longer we walked. The women looked at each other with a sense of pride and strength and dignity and fierceness, and I am really happy that as an American that I could participate and be accepted in an event like this (American tourists have a bad rep here). This is an issue far bigger than Florence, as rape culture is pervasive in all parts of the world, and it takes events like this to call it out and make it be known that it IS real, and that you can’t blow it off any longer.
While I was very proud and impressed with the men that joined and chanted and clapped with us and made speeches, I was shocked at the amount of men that we passed that laughed in our faces. It broke my heart. They are a part of the problem, and they are ignorantly choosing to be. I wanted to scream at them and say “Do you know that you’re encouraging rape culture??? That you’re okay with telling women it’s their fault they were assaulted and their lives are forever changed even though they didn’t have a choice??” It’s astonishing to me. I thought thinking like this was really only a huge issue in America (since the country is led by a man that literally promotes intolerance and tweets nonsense constantly — not sorry and we can just agree to disagree if you differ), but I was proven wrong last night.
Nonetheless, the event was powerful and disruptive to normal daily life, making people look and see and listen to what we were standing up for and marching against. Increasing awareness (through marches, open forums, protests, etc.) is a great step to making sure ignorance about any variety of issues lessens, which would hopefully lead to less excuse-making and victim-blaming in the future. I’m very glad I was a part of the movement, and I’m so proud of my host mom for taking a stand for something she so strongly believes in. She’s pretty inspiring, and encouraged me to participate in more marches and to be actively involved in other events like this, and I can say with confidence that I will.
Maybe you’ll see a pic of me on the Internet some day in the front of the march with Francesca holding the sign! That would be pretty sweet, considering I neglected to document the experience with pictures and videos.
If you’re interested in reading about what happened to the women in Florence, here’s a few links.
- An informative and updated article on what happened to the women and the proceedings thus far
- EDIT to this specific news article: The women are 21 and 19, not both 21. They attend the Istituto Lorenzo de Medici (my university), and this is reported in other news articles (see below)
- Another accurate article from the NY Times
- News coverage of the march by a local news outlet
- Statement / event posting from the women’s group that organized the march