May 1st is the labor day, at least in Switzerland and Italy. For me, this meant the day off work and I found myself in Bologna, Italy in the middle of an unexpected (to me) demonstration. First thing that was amiss – police vehicles blocking off the street and police in riot gear lined up.
Despite the riot gear, the protest remained non-violent.
The Italian word for “close” was spray painted on a number of businesses. May 1 is supposed to be a global strike day and at least in Italy and Switzerland, the majority of businesses are closed.
The No People Mover signs win my “sign of the protest” award. They are protesting a free shuttle from Bologna to the airport that raised the price of bus tickets. For those who are interested, they have a blog (in Italian) aptly named No People Mover.
McDonalds was open despite the calls for a global strike closure spray painted on its windows. Most of the major chains in Bologna were open, as were restaurants, but smaller stores closed for the holiday. H&M was open but devoid of shoppers. McDonalds was not terribly busy at lunchtime with most of the people at the square for the protest.
The march started on a major street in Bologna and wound its way down to the main square in town. Signs were calling for the protesters to take the square. City officials seemed quite willing to give the square up without a fight.
The banks took a lot of the protesters’ anger. ATMs had their displays covered with cartoons that called them crooks. Banks had their plate glass windows partially covered with impromptu brick walls. Europe has some anti-Euro sentiment, even in Switzerland which does not use the Euro.
After the march to the square was over, most of the groups gathered and continued to wave signs or shout their slogans. I didn’t have much more time in Bologna so a quick trip through the church and old town later and I was on my way back to the train station.