Italian ravers rally to resist crackdown on illegal parties and gatherings

The hum of mopeds and honking of passing cars that usually fill the streets of Naples was replaced this weekend by blaring techno music from rental trucks.

An estimated 5,000 people took to the streets of the southern Italian city to protest the partial passage of the so-called anti-rave law.

Opponents argue that this is a direct attack on people’s freedom of expression. They fear the measure could be used to prosecute anti-government protesters and occupied leftist community centers as well as rave parties.

The law, already approved by the Italian Parliament, would criminalize unauthorized gatherings that “arbitrarily invade other people’s land, buildings, both private and public, in order to organize a musical gathering or other entertainment purposes”.

Revelers gathered long into the Naples night -Savin Mattozzi

Those found guilty of participating in such events risk hefty fines and one to four years in prison. The heaviest penalty would be handed down to organizers who face up to six years in prison if the event is perceived as a risk to public safety.

Fight for the right to party

Sergio Sciambra, a 30-year-old law student and member of the Nadir music and arts collective, says the basis of this law goes beyond simply stopping or impeding rave parties. He believes it’s a way for right-wing governments to force their own version of morality on people.

Savino Mattozzi

Sergio Sciambra -Savin Mattozzi

“Raves are essentially a symbol of what is wrong with governments like this but also with centre-left governments,” explains Sergio. “These are ‘morally scandalous’ things like substance use, aggressive music and promiscuity.”

Ideas of morality have been at the forefront of Italy’s new right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has its roots in the country’s post-fascist political groups such as the Movimento Sociale Italiano.

Despite Meloni’s efforts to distance her party from its past, the relationship between her current political beliefs and those of the original Fascist party has not escaped political opponents.

About halfway through the procession in Naples, the procession passed through Piazza Matteotti. A square intentionally named after a famous anti-fascist in a place surrounded by buildings from the fascist era.

The caravan of trucks shining laser beams on the crowd and playing techno, house and reggae music stopped in the square long enough for people to spread out and dance. The black steps of the central post building became a dance floor where groups of young people busied themselves, bobbing and bobbing their heads to the music.

The movement for music

31-year-old techno fan Elena Lucariello jumps onto a raised section next to the Post Office stairs and immediately starts dancing. Her platform boots bounce up and down as she holds a beer in one hand and a small camera in the other.

“Music is something that unites everyone, not just techno, but all music,” says Elena. “It gives you a chance to express yourself. Self-expression through music is something that annoys conservative leaders because it’s uncontrollable. It was the same story with rock and roll in the 60s and also with jazz before it.

She explains that these raves and techno parties give her the opportunity to build deep bonds with other people who share her interests.

“These holidays make you feel intimately connected with other people. It allows you to get out of this daily routine that we all have and we must have time to dedicate to ourselves and our expressive interests”.

The catalyst for this recent push to criminalize rave parties came after a free rave party was disrupted over the Halloween weekend in November. The rave was attended by around 3,000 people on the outskirts of the northern city of Modena and was stopped without major clashes with police.

Sergio explains that the penalties for violating the new law are heavy given the alleged crime committed.

“It’s a bit of a terrorist law,” he says. “The real purpose is to scare people.”

Gather for the cause

The high fines and lengthy prison sentences that would be handed down to both participants and organizers of rave parties and other similar events attracted the attention of European human rights organizations such as Article 19.

In a statement released in November, Article 19 warned that such a sweeping law could potentially allow the criminalization of other constitutionally protected activities, and they urged the Italian government to repeal the law immediately.

Prime Minister Meloni has sought to reassure the public that the law will not target protests and will not deny anyone the right to dissent.

This attempt to allay fears that the law was being used to target left-wing groups was rejected by fellow Brothers of Italy MP Federico Mollicone. In an interview on a TV talk show, he threatened that some left-wing social centers could be targeted if the occupied space was seen as damaging to public or private property.

The true implications of the law have yet to be seen as it still needs to be approved by the Senate in the coming weeks. For the organizers of raves and other events that risk becoming targets, a mood of determined resistance has been set.

“The important thing is just to do it” says Sergio. “Put your culture and values ​​into practice is the best possible form of resistance.”

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