Yesterday, President Bush was in Rome to buzz by the Vatican and pop in to have coffee with Berlusconi. La Repubblica was reporting that several metro stops would have limited hours on Saturday and numerous streets would be closed on account of all this, which really pissed off the Italians. It was much more extensive than I expected, though. I was going to meet Erika, Paul, and Anna at the Capitoline around 3pm. I got to Termini fine, but the via Cavour was closed so I had to walk. There were plenty of police up at the museums, but when we walked down to the Vittorio Emmanuele monument, we were amazed to see the carabinieri in three rows lining the steps - in full riot gear, complete with helmets and those transparent body shields. Everyone was stopping to take pictures. I would have, but I didn't feel like lugging my camera around and had left it at home.

We sauntered over to the Pantheon to get gelato and coffee, although it was circuitous because of some closed streets. A security helicopter was whirring overhead the entire afternoon. We walked up the Janiculum to see a panoramic view of Rome - surprisingly free of police - and then walked back down. As we got to Largo Argentina, we saw the giant protest. In Italy, protests don't just stand still. So even though it started at the Piazza del Popolo at 3pm, it eventually wended its way down into the center of the city to the Vittorio Emmanuele monument. It was actually kind of amusing as protests go. These were people united in their hatred of Bush but not united on any other cause. So there were some pro-communists, as well as some gay rights groups, a contingent of Cubans, among others. There was a pickup truck at the front, and a guy was yelling into a loudspeaker. Apparently the police weren't securing the protest-parade route, as we walked right through the protest to get to the other side of the piazza. I guess the police were there to protect buildings and people. I did read that some protesters threw things at the carabinieri, who used tear gas on them, but fortunately we weren't around at that point.

It sounds like Bush didn't do much to ingratiate himself with the Italian people yesterday. He called the Pope "sir" rather than "your holiness." Granted, I'm not one for titles and formality, but if I were the most powerful democratic leader in the world and were talking to the most powerful religious leader in the world, I think I'd ask someone what to address him as. So that pissed off a bunch of Italians. Bush also had coffee with Berlusconi, whom most Italians hate and definitely don't want to see restored to power. But mostly, the Italians loathed the unprecedented display of security surrounding a man they despise. I very much enjoyed the protesters' signs that proclaimed things like "Bush Suck" and "Bush Merda." Short, sweet, and to the point (even if Bush Suck isn't correct English). There were even fliers with Bush getting killed in a variety of ways, particularly by having bombs dropped on him.

In all, I read that there were tens of thousands of protesters yesterday and thousands of polizie and carabinieri keeping order. That's a pretty impressive amount of Bush-hating.


Chris Cameron said…
presidents don't address crowned heads of state as your majesty either. americans don't have royalty, even if the crowned head is the pope.

on a side note, the riot police in albania are out b/c of so many supporters. just goes to show that the little people still love us, even if european ex-great powers don't.
The Italian papers also reported a second "gaffe" that Bush made with the Pope. When he sat down across from him in the papal office, he crossed his legs. I have no idea why this is a gaffe.
SS said…
So timely! This (not all of what KK did but what Bushie did in Rome and Albania) was on the Daily Show last night, just after I had read your blog.

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