A banquet, some chairs, a mobile phone to be used as a virtual megaphone to announce one’s presence in Piazza del Popolo in Rome: that was enough for Stefano Puzzer to find himself in the ranks of unwanted people and recipients of an expulsion order for a year. A Daspo, as well as for characters like Giuliano Castellino who from Piazza del Popolo led the assault on the CGIL a little less than a month ago despite the fact that, according to the provision of the public authority, they had to remain at home.
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It will therefore be denounced for unannounced demonstration, but Puzzer is not Castellino. He was not guilty of criminal episodes: his fault was not communicating the advance notice of the event to the competent authority, that is to the Chief of Police. Neither Heads of State nor Prime Ministers came, but a hundred ordinary citizens who gathered around him: hugs, pats on the back and food for a peaceful protest that ended in the afternoon with the intervention of the public force. Under the law, Puzzer faced arrest for up to six months plus a fine. For him, on the other hand, the Chief of Police has provided for a roadmap which presupposes an established “social dangerousness of the person and the existence of evidence of a crime against him”. “I was treated with gloves, they were really good people, people who have nothing to do with this system, on the contrary,” Puzzer said after the investigations, planning new initiatives in Trieste. The “No greenpass” with the “no vaccination obligation” and “no blackmail at work” have organized a new demonstration, for November 6th. In short, the protest will go on.
It is therefore perhaps necessary to stop for a moment and not exacerbate a social conflict also because the situation is anything but simple. Yesterday the Prefect of Trieste, Valerio Valenti published the decree that prohibits, until the end of the year, the holding of demonstrations in Piazza Unità d’Italia (unless they are religious functions and events organized by public bodies). Other cities could follow suit. To date, 83% of the population over 12 has completed the vaccination cycle, so that no vax is – albeit noisy – a minority in numbers. Yet even those who have carried out the vaccine begin to turn up their noses against an attitude that in fact inhibits the right to demonstrate.
Article 17 of the Constitution requires that this right can be set aside when there are proven reasons for public safety or security. And if during the first phase of fighting the pandemic it was probably inevitable so that the infections could be contained and, consequently, save people’s lives, now it conflicts with the images of the electoral demonstrations and carousels that accompanied the last administrative elections. Is it right then to allow those who – by faith, inclination or suggestion – do not want to get vaccinated to block roads and activities?
The story sometimes helps to give some answers. Vaccines entered human history a little over two centuries ago and since the very beginning they have met with opposition from certain sectors of society for multiple reasons. A school case is the reaction of the English population to the introduction of the smallpox vaccine at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: a satirical print of the time depicted those who underwent the inoculation of the bovine vaccine discovered by Edward Jenner as men transfigured into cows . Suggestions appeased by the results that eradicated the disease from the West after the introduction of compulsory vaccination. Then came the civil struggles of the 60s and 70s that asked not to charge individual behaviors with penalties: thus disregarding the vaccination obligation becomes an administrative offense. Sanctions hardly ever applied while the vaccination culture was being wasted. Until 2017 when a law became necessary that made a dozen vaccinations mandatory again. Then the pandemic made us all a bit of a jurist.
Now the politics, intoxicated by the green pass obligation latch to avoid the vaccination obligation, is wondering about the extension of the expiration of the state of emergency. Under the law, it may be extended until the end of January while the debate on the third dose for all is intended to broaden the audience of those who do not want to renew the immunization. Is it therefore necessary to act with a hard fist against those who will contest the new prescriptions? Perhaps letting the former representative of the Trieste dockers free to place his banquet in a corner of a Roman square was not really a problem.
On the other hand, the number of vaccinated people has been stable for weeks: there will always be a number of people who in conscience will refuse vaccination. Instead, the political decision-maker would have the task of finding a different solution to a state of emergency which, two years after the start of the pandemic, has – legally – lost its reason for existing. Instead, the state should be asked to take on its responsibilities. If vaccination is to be mandatory, the institution must guarantee compliance with the provision without releasing the burden of checking a certificate that has already proved too often to be circumvented on the citizens.