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How to kill the demos: the water struggle in Italy

Andrea Muehlebach

On November 28, 2015, water activists from the Southern Italian region of Campania staged a massive protest in the city of Naples. Some 5,000 water activists and environmentalists, trade unionists and workers from Naples’ water works protested a recently passed regional law that aims to centralize water management and set the stage for water privatization.

The demonstration was one in several that occurred in the last few years. Previous demonstrations had been organized against an (only nominally) public water company that manages water services in 76 Campanian municipalities and that had made water prices soar and water-shut offs proliferate. What was striking about this protest was not only the presence of Naples’ mayor Luigi de Magistris but of more than thirty mayors walking shoulder to shoulder with protesters. The latter were part of a network of mayors that had been formed in 2013 to protest privatization and to underscore their commitment to the public and participatory management of water.