2012 Sicilian protests
The 2012 Sicilian protests, also code-named by its organizers as Operation Sicilian Vespers (in Italian Operazione Vespri siciliani), was a 5-day blockade of roads and seaports that brought Sicily and its economy to a standstill in January 2012. Similar protests affecting wider areas of Italy broke out in December 2013.
Shock Force (in Italian Comitato Forza d'Urto) is a Sicilian political grouping, which organized Operation Sicilian Vespers, the 5-day blockade of roads and seaports that brought Sicily and its economy to a standstill in January 2012.
Under the Shock Force umbrella other organisations are also represented, such as the Pitchforks Movement (in Italian Movimento dei Forconi), an informal grouping of farmers, shepherds and breeders, and the Sicilian Trucking Association (in Italian Associazione Imprese Autotrasportatori Siciliani, AIAS), an association representing truck drivers and small logistics business interests. The founder of the Pitchforks movement was Martino Morsello, a 57 y.o. former Socialist councillor of Marsala.
From the very first day, the blockade was strengthened and widely supported by workers and small businesses in other sectors, such as the fishing industry, the building industry and also by Sicilian students.
The events are generally linked with the European sovereign debt crisis and the ongoing world economic crisis, but the last straw that precipitated the blockade and its widespread support were the excessively steep rise in fuel costs experienced in the weeks immediately following the increase in excise duty on fuel, which had been decided upon by the technocratic cabinet of the Prime Minister of Italy Mario Monti.
The blockade started on 16 January, when roads, motorways and the gates of the major ports all around Sicily were blocked. A strategic target for the protesters were Sicilian refineries, which are responsible for 42% of Italian fuel production. A fuel shortage on the island soon followed.
On 16 January 2012, the Pitchforks Movement joined Operation Sicilian Vespers, which, while blockading most of the main roads and seaports of the island, led to the suspension of most economic activities in Sicily.
There are reports of the blockade gaining a foothold in mainland Italy, in Calabria and even as far north as Pescara. The blockade is having a negative impact also for the economy of the neighboring Malta.
The other main association involved in the blockade, the Sicilian Trucking Association (in Italian Associazione Imprese Autotrasportatori Siciliani, AIAS) must suspend the blockade after the fifth day, January 21, as per the Italian law, but the Pitchforks Movement, as other members of the Shock Force, may decide to continue indefinitely.
While the Pitchforks Movement has declared itself apolitical and politically agnostic, there have been allegations it has as a closer relationship with the far-right party Forza Nuova, or with the Movement for Autonomies, the party of the Sicilian head of government, Raffaele Lombardo.
However, also organisations close to the far left have joined the operation Sicilian Vespers protests.
- BBC News
- Iozzia, Giovanni (5 January 2012). "E' nata "Forza d'Urto"" (pdf) (in Italian). Comitato Forza d'Urto. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- Betlevy, Dana (19 January 2012). "Strikes, Protests Paralyze Sicily". The Epoch Time. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "The Pitchforks Movement in Sicily". Struggles in Italy. 18 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- Xuereb, Matthew (17 January 2012). "Truckers caught in Sicily blockade". Times of Malta. Retrieved 21 January 2012.