Valentina and Emanuel, the lawyers, have also joined for lunch. Between conversations and jokes with Nicoletta and the others, they explain that No TAV activists have even been accused of terrorism. The government has declared the building site an area of strategic interest, thus opening the path to treat protesters as terrorists. Even though the No TAV activists won the case, it is a clear indication of how far the government is ready to go to silence the activists.
At one of the biggest trials, 47 activists were tried for the protests on the day of the establishment of the building site. After losing the first trial and the appeal, the activists and lawyers have now gone to the court of cassation in Rome. If they lose their appeal, they could face fines of up to 300,000 euros. But even if that were to happen, it would mean only a small setback: when the activists had to pay a similar sum back in 2014, they crowdfunded the money within two weeks.
The fact is that this struggle, which has lasted for over two decades, has unified and strengthened the people. This is what scares the government most. All over the Susa Valley, so-called presidi have been constructed. A presidio is a space, often a wooden cabin, created as a place of discussion and assembly, where local residents from the villages meet every week to discuss the next actions, the needs of the community and the links with other movements, both in Italy and abroad. Every July a music and book festival take place in the town. The movement has also received the support of many artists.
I get to see this with my own eyes when Gianni and Emilio, members of a Christian group, take me and Mina on a tour of the construction site. Graffiti artists from all over Italy came and did their art on the massive pillars by the highway, around the site. It is an amazing sight. Gianni also shows me a place, very close to the construction site, where local residents have bought a parcel of land. Twice a week, they pass the checkpoint manned by the army, the police and the carabinieri and organize a collective picnic. This is their land, their place, and they are reclaiming it. It is a beautiful and empowering feeling to see how resistance can be so creative and exhilarating.