The Vandals Occupy Rome, Briefly: How a Demonstration Was Hijacked

Time has published my story on yesterday’s violent demonstrations in Rome.

The protest had been planned carefully for months, and as the scheduled day began, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Italians had made their way to Rome from all over the peninsula. In a day of global demonstrations, it looked to be the biggest march in the world in solidarity with the indignado movement in Spain and the Occupy Wall Street protests in the U.S. But in the end, it wasn’t the authorities that derailed the protests in Rome, it was a small fraction of the protesters themselves.

In a city landmarked by monuments and churches, the plan was to march from a square near the city’s central train station, past the Colosseum to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, a long-standing rallying point for leftist protest movements. Many hoped the demonstration would turn into a peaceful occupation of the plaza in front of the cathedral, echoing similar strategies from Egypt’s Tahrir Square and Zuccotti Park in New York City.

Read the rest.