On our third day here we bumped into a fairly large protest about a block away from our school. Walking toward our apartment we came across a crowd chanting loudly outside a door blocked by police in riot gear. Two people held a banner in front of the crowd.
Our embarrassing lack of Italian proved to be a great obstacle in understanding the situation and communicating with the locals, but we reached for our cameras anyway. Confused about the laws regarding the freedom of the press in Italy and disheartened by my inability to speak with the protesters, I quickly left with only a couple snapshots to prove I was there.
Two days later the protest continued. That’s where I met Isse.
Isse is a Somali refugee who has been living in Italy for two years now. He had been living in the building that the police had blockaded. He said the residents of the building had ben kicked out with no warning or assistance and were not allowed back in – the Italian government forbade their reentry.
In the meantime, He and his friends were stuck at a local shelter that only fed them one meal per day. They were living on the street in the 3o degree Fahrenheit Florence winter.
“They don’t respect our rights,” he repeated over and over again. He said the police would not tell the residents why they were forbidden from entering. They simply stood silently in formation, barring the hungry residents from entry.
Though I had trouble understanding the details when Isse’s fellow protesters began talking over one another in a panicked frenzy, I managed to pick out that their friend, who had also been kicked out of the apartment, had died in the hospital the night before.
Isse and his friends were passionate and friendly. They spoke with vibrant and excited broken English trying to communicate to me the unfairness of their situation.
I hope to continue exploring the refugee crisis in Europe. The injustices that go unnoticed on street corners and outside apartment buildings. Inside country lines or outside, people are people. And they must be treated this way.