A sombre air surrounded those gathered in Valletta, charged with frustration and anger. It was as if all of Malta had rallied into the streets of our capital. Placards and slogans were being brandished, banners proclaiming ‘Mafia State’ hung and displayed in full view of the new Parliament building, as the crowd was cheering on. People were marching together, clapping in unison and waving flags. A reported 30,000 people took to the streets that day to make their voices heard.
Approaching the old theatre, a mountain of cardboard boxes rose off of the steps, volunteers assembled around them, handing out free t-shirts with the journalist’s last written message, “There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate,” printed on them. It wasn’t long before they completely ran out.
The crowd approached the law courts. The throng assembled around the stage set up for those with the courage to speak publicly on the issues they were all there to address. Some started to chant “DRUG STATE” as a banner displaying the face of our current police commissioner was carried up the court’s marble stairs. The crowd erupted into cries of scorn and booing, even cursing the image.
Activist Monique Agius took to the stage to introduce six speakers: KSU President Robert Napier, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders Christophe Deloire, political bloggers James Debono and Manuel Delia, Director at Deloitte Claudine Cassar, and politician, lecturer and activist Michael Briguglio. All spoke with the same conviction calling for institutional reform. Napier proclaimed, “We shall not be afraid!” on behalf of the students. Deloire compared Daphne’s assassination to the Charlie Hebdo shootings, making the statement, “Je suis Daphne. They won’t silence her spirit. From us, they will get no more than 1 minute of silence.” “We let her fight alone,” Delia said, a sliver of regret betrayed in his voice, “but now it us up to all of us to take on her battles.”
The demonstration ended with a declaration of the organizer’s – the Civil Society Network’s - demands, which have since been presented to President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca:
- The resignation of the Police Commissioner
- The resignation of the Attorney General
- For new positions in parliament to be decided by a 2/3 majority vote rather than chosen at the discretion of those with parliamentary majority.
Peace. Victory. These are the things the crowd was demanding, as they all made their way to the Palace, eager to show CSN their support as they met the President inside the Palace walls. The team eventually emerged, the smiles on their faces boding well for the result.
It was divulged that the atmosphere during the meeting was intense, the gravity of the situation lost upon no-one. However, the President was very understanding of what was being proposed, and vowed to bring it up on a constitutional level.