Kiss across the barricades


A demonstrator kisses a riot police officer on November 16, 2013, during a protest in Susa against the high-speed train (TAV in Italian) line between Lyon and Turin. (AFP Photo / Marco Bertorello)

By Marco Bertorello

A contested cross-border rail tunnel cutting through the French-Italian Alps – slated for completion in 2025 – spills out on the Italian side in the small town of Suse, in the region of Piedmont. I was on hand earlier this week to photograph thousands of local residents and activists protesting the cost and potential environmental impact of the project. 

Previous demonstrations against the mega-tunnel have turned violent, but this one is unfolding peacefully and without confrontation. Riot police in full gear positioned along the path along which the protesters march are never called into action. At the end point I am standing next to a phalanx of policeman when I see a young woman run up and throw her arms around one of them. I ready my camera just as she plants a big kiss on his Plexiglas visor.

The whole episode lasts not even five seconds. No doubt startled, the policeman – younger than his colleagues – closes his eyes, as if relaxing into the situation. The scene looks more like two young lovers exchanging a fond embrace. In reality, of course, it is politics at play here, not love. And sure enough, the policeman quickly rights himself and pushes away his “assailant.” Even if it was almost certainly the least aggressive “attack” he has encountered in his career, he doesn't seem too pleased after the fact.


A man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask protests on November 16, 2013 in Susa against the high-speed train line between Lyon and Turin. The link, expected to come into service in 2025, will see one million fewer trucks on the highways a year, and reduce train times between Paris and Milan from seven hours to just over four. (AFP Photo / Marco Bertorello)