30 July 2011

Play-by-play of the revolt in the CIE of Ponte Galeria, Rome

It's just past midnight at the Center for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) in Rome, Italy. Three convicts try to escape. The police find them. And the police cruelly beat them following the orders of an inspector who has decided to be tough. Someone witnesses the scene, however. And outraged, spreads the word among the inmates of the men’s area. A revolt breaks out. The inmates refuse to return to the dormitories; the police in riot gear outside the cage threaten to break through. Inside, they arm themselves with stones for defense and light some mattresses on fire. Meanwhile, thanks to reliable sources within the CIE, on the outside we follow the developments of the revolt throughout the night. Read about how it turned out. And if you, too, think that this is not normal stuff, call the switchboard at Ponte Galeria +39.06.65854224. Let’s make sure they know they’re being watched.

00:47 hours
The police are beating 4 Algerian men in the Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) in Rome. They captured them an hour ago while they were trying to escape. According to witnesses they were badly beaten. The other inmates in the men’s section are protesting outside their dormitories, gathering in front of the entrance to the cage and preventing the entry of the police who at this time usually lock them inside their sections. They refuse to go back to the sleeping quarters until they have seen the conditions the four men, who are still isolated in the room where they were beaten, have been reduced to.

01:17 hours
The inmates are still refusing to return to the dormitories and remain tightly packed at the front of the gate to the cage. On the other side of the fence security forces in riot gear are lined up. About twenty soldiers and thirty agents, between police and officers from the Guardia di Finanza, are ready to intervene to quell the protest. The four Algerians are still locked in the room where they were beaten. They are four Algerians who disembarked in Lampedusa in the past few weeks, arriving from Libya. Participating in the protest are also the Egyptians who were taken by the police during the raid of July 27 at the general food markets of Rome, in Guidonia-Montecelio, which led to the imprisonment of 16 Egyptian workers devoid of contract. Not participating, for obvious reasons, are the two inmates still locked up in isolation, there for over a month, one of them on hunger strike since July 22.

01:33 hours
An eyewitness springs up. The four escapees were captured in two different places. Three of them were immobilized in front of the cage of the women’s area. According to the story of our source, the agents initially immobilized them to the ground and handcuffed their wrists behind their backs. Until then, all was calm, and then a police inspector arrived in the area, and began to kick them while they were already immobilized to the ground, then crushed their faces to the floor under the soles of her boots. Then the prisoners began to shout and the inspector ordered her men to take the three away, inside the offices.

01:54 hours
The revolt is being prepared. The police have taken the four Algerians to the front of the gate to get them back inside their sections, and they’ve asked the inmates to move away from the gate so they can lock them inside the areas. But the reaction to the sight of the four was very strong. Eyewitnesses said the four Algerians were in bad condition after the beating they received. Inside the cage they’re preparing the revolt. A group of inmates managed to tear out two bars of the cage and to break through to reach the ground near the wall, where they could gather up stones with which to take up arms to defend themselves in case the thirty agents in riot gear were to enter by force and beat the inmates. Meanwhile, one of the prisoners cut his arm and ankle with an iron bar.

02:07 hours
According to our source, the root of the current insurgency in the CIE of Rome, in addition to the beating of the four Algerians tonight, is a violent expulsion that took place this morning. The man in question is a Tunisian national, Monje, a resident of Milan for 20 years, married with two children, who was forcibly taken from his bed while still asleep this morning at dawn, and carried off, tied up with sello-tape after he had tried to resist. This man had already served 5 months and 25 days of imprisonment in the CIE of Rome and would have come out after five days. His wife, from Milan, had already sent him the money via Western Union to buy a train ticket to return to his family in Lombardy. According to our sources, this was the straw that broke the camel's back, at a time when all the inmates feel frightened by the new law being debated in the Senate , which extends to 18 months the maximum period of detention in the CIEs.

02:28 hours
The inmates continue to scream and beat against the bars of the cage. The officers, in riot gear, have not yet gone in, partly because they are outnumbered. The inmates are in fact more than one hundred and armed with stones to defend themselves. In the central courtyard of the cage, seven mattresses have been burned to prevent the advancement of law enforcement agents. Also participating in the protest are six Albanians, oddly imprisoned for the past 40 days, despite having regularly entered Italy with the new biometric passport , which as of last December allows the free movement of Albanian citizens in the EU without a visa. They ask to be released either in Italy or Albania, without spending one more day in detention. Meanwhile, a dozen inmates have climbed in protest onto the roof of the cells.

02:55 hours
Using a fire hydrant, the team of officers in riot gear manage to disperse the dozens of inmates from the front of the gate and enter the cage. By dint of beatings, and using shields to protect themselves from the stones being thrown, the agents are able to force the inmates
back into their cells and close the cages with a chain and padlock, because in the previous two hours the inmates have tampered with the locks. According to one of our sources, there are at least eight wounded among the prisoners. A group of inmates is still out of the cells and are trying to defend themselves from the beatings by throwing stones and other objects.

03:16 hours
All the inmates, including the four Algerians beaten three hours ago, have now been brought back and locked inside the cells. At the moment, calm seems to have returned. The police have returned to the outside of the cage. But inside, anger is still high. It goes hand in hand with the apprehension regarding the new law about the six months. Meanwhile, new details have emerged about the expulsion of Monje this morning. Eyewitnesses described his expulsion as very violent. At around six o'clock in the morning, a dozen policemen came into his cell while he was still sleeping, three of them threw themselves on him to immobilize him. Then, having been suddenly awaken, he was forced to kneel down, his wrists here handcuffed behind his back and he was dragged away by force. The inmates who witnessed the scene say they are shocked. This is the second case of a Tunisian expelled after the six months were up. Last Tuesday, in fact, in the group of 16 Tunisians who were expelled, there was a certain Mohhoursed, a worker at the fish market of Bari, in Italy for over ten years, who had just four days left to reach the six months of detention and be let out.

04:30 hours
A search inside the cells is carried out. A team of 8 agents count the inmates, cell by cell. Three people are missing: during the chaos of the clashes they managed to hide onto the rooftops. It’s three Algerians.

7:00 hours
Of the three Algerians who were missing, two are found and brought back to their cell, apparently without the use of violence. The third managed to escape from the cage, and is back to freedom. To figure out who he is, the police is doing a second count, cell by cell, but this time with registers and photos.

7:30 hours
A group of undercover agents photograph the damages of the structure. A shattered panel of Plexiglas at the entrance of the cage, 7 burned mattresses, 2 shattered cameras and two broken bars at the back of the cage, which are quickly welded under the supervision of three police officers. No one, however, photographs the wounded prisoners.

09:30 hours
As punishment, the cells are still chained shut and the inmates cannot go into the courtyard of the large cage. Throughout the night, the management of the CIE left the lights on to keep the inmates from resting.

10:30 hours
The staff of the managing organsation Auxilium brings breakfast, but the inmates refuse to be served through the cage, as though they were animals, forced to stay locked up in cells. And they proclaim a hunger strike.

12:00 hours
In retaliation, the sale of cigarettes stays closed today.

13:30 hours
A score of agents, some policemen and other officers of the Guardia di Finanza, enter the cage. Cell by cell, a team of eight consisting of four policemen, two customs officers and two plainclothes officers armed with truncheons, select a few prisoners. So far, from the first three cells, they have taken 8 people. The last two were Egyptians from the group of workers of general food markets of Rome taken during the raid three days ago. It is not yet clear whether they are the inmates being arrested for the rebellion, or whether there is a collective expulsion under way.

14:47 hours
The police spread the official version, quickly re-launched by news agencies. The censorship regarding the reasons for the protest and the police violence is absolute.

Rome, July 30 - (Adnkronos) - Protests last night at the CIE of Ponte Galeria, in the province of Rome. A few immigrants set fire to mattresses and blankets, while five people climbed over the fence to escape. Police cars promptly intervened, blocking the fleeing immigrants. Against the agents, bottles and other objects were thrown. The protest broke out shortly before midnight last night. The situation was brought back to normal by police within a couple of hours. Some agents were wounded. On site firefighters also intervened to put out the fires.

(ANSA) - ROME, 30 JULY - Four people tried to escape last night from the CIE of Ponte Galeria in Rome, but were captured by police, and once inside, destroyed several rooms, set fire to mattresses and blankets and threw objects at the police officers. The "revolt" lasted about three hours. From what we learned, shortly before midnight four Algerian immigrants were able to get across the entrance to the Cie. The alarm went off immediately and the Police Mobile Unit of Rome intervened and took hold of the fugitives. But once they were taken back in, a revolt broke out: the immigrants launched bottles, stones and pipes ripped from the bathroom walls against the police officers. Other immigrants set fire to mattresses and blankets and the firefighters had to intervene to douse the flames. Peace in the center returned only at around 3 am. Eight policemen were injured, while two rooms have been closed and declared uninhabitable.

15:00 hours
The Italian MP Andrea Sarubbi (PD) arrived at Ponte Galeria for an inspection. Sarubbi had already visited the Roman CIE during the national mobilization lasciateCIEntrare , on 25 July.

15:13 hours
Jean Leonard Touadi and Sergio Gaudio of the Italian Democratic Party send a press release regarding the revolt of Rome and the events of Lampedusa, demanding the closure of the CIEs.

Rome, July 30 - (Adnkronos) - "The news which is reaching us at this time regarding abuse of power, beatings and violent clashes inside the CIE of Ponte Galeria, if confirmed, once again brings up the notion of the need for the permanent closure of the way the CIE are designed". This is what is declared in a joint statement by the deputy of the Democratic Party (PD), Jean Leonard Touadi and Sergio Gaudio, head of the Democratic Party Immigration Forum in Rome. "Similarly, we continue to hear news of the presence of minors –the statement continues - for example in the CIE of Lampedusa, in promiscuity with adults and treated with exactly the same methods, without any regard nor respect for their young age and their condition. Nothing in terms of guarantees is provided for them." "It seems incredible - it concludes - that this kind of situation can persist in a civilized country such as Italy. The center-right continues in a campaign that is making our country slip into a current of intolerance and limitation of inalienable rights which is no longer acceptable'.

16:30 hours
MP Andrea Sarubbi (PD) exits the CIE after speaking with police officers and inmates. Basically, the police deny that they resorted to violence and even complain that they were victims of the stone-throwing. The inmates instead confirm that they were beaten. Through the mediation of Sarubbi, the management of the center finally authorizes the reopening of the cell gates and the distribution of water and food in the canteen.

18.30 hours
MP Andrea Sarubbi publishes a post on his blog in which he reconstructs last night’s revolt in the CIE of Ponte Galeria.

00:00 hours
The news of the attempted escape of the Algerians and the subsequent revolt is broadcasted in Algeria by the national newspaper El Watan, citing Fortress Europe for the reconstruction of the facts.

translated by Camilla Gamba