It was an iconic moment, when on the 16th of November Nina De Chiffre grasped a young policeman’s head and planted a kiss on his riot helmet during a No Tav protest in the Italian Susa Valley.
The protests against the high-speed rail line have been ongoing for years now, and have seen both protesters and police accusing each other of heavy-handed tactics. The Susa Valley is arguably one of the most policed and militarised zones in the country, and violence has erupted regularly at protest marches, so perhaps it was no surprise that the media would jump on to the image, labelling it a ‘baccio di pace‘ or a kiss of peace. In La Stampa, the national newspaper based in Turin (about 50km from the Val di Susa) went into ecstasy:
But photos don’t have noise. And there’s no noise in that kiss, no screams, no insults, there’s no rage, there’s nothing but this breath, like in all the kisses in the world, that are signs of peace, not just of love.(1)
This was quickly demolished by the young woman in question herself, when she was interviewed shortly after by journalists. She told the press:
I tried to provoke the guy with the methods of a sex worker, a prostitute. I know what the rules of engagement are for the police force, and I played on them: I know well that they can’t react to provocations. I didn’t limit myself to kissing him, as was shown in the photo; I said things to him to see if he’d react, but he remained immobile. […] It was an act of contempt towards the police. I wanted that policeman to remember what happened to Marta from Pisa: last July she was molested and beaten without any consequence for the agents”(2)
The significance of the kiss and the photo is further up for debate now as it emerges that Franco Maccari, the general secretary of the Italian Police Union (COISP) has denounced De Chiffre for sexual harrasment. Today he told the radio program ‘La ZanZara‘ that he had taken the action because :
If I kissed her on the mouth, isn’t it a crime? […]If it had been a policeman who kissed a protester at random, the third world war would have erupted.”(3)