This peace demonstration was held on Saturday 18 March, just three weeks before the election. The majority of L’Unione — despite its policy to withdraw troops from Iraq — refused to support it. They also succeeded in convincing Italy’s biggest trade union federation, the CGIL, not to give its official backing. Prodi and his supporters said they feared the demonstration would end in violence: an anti-fascist mobilisation in Milan a week earlier had ended in street-fighting between anarchists and the police. In the event there was no such trouble, nor was there ever likely to have been.
The slogan at the front of the demo means “Peace top of the list: Troops out now”. The first part refers to the importance of the issue in the new government’s programme. The “troops out now” differentiates Rifondazione from others in L’Unione who are for withdrawal “as the security situation allows” (which in practice could mean not at all). It has a slightly different resonance here than in the UK: Italy’s constitution explicitly states that the country “repudiates war” and the fact that Italian troops are in Iraq at all demonstrates the government’s contempt for democracy.