I can't speak for other people, I can't really say why they decided to come to the protest - but I imagine their reasons can't have been too different from mine. I myself had half a mind not to go - there have been some changes in my personal life, which meant that for the past two/three weeks I've been doing little more than running around between cities, dealing with offices, paperwork and the like and honestly, the prospective of a quiet weekend did look appealing.
...but I kept hearing things on the news, the way they've been butchering every single (PUBLIC) service we have, what they're planning to do to the whole scholastic system, what I know first hand, how they keep cutting on funds and cover it with talk of "reforming the public system", of "eliminating the slackers" - because whatever their reforms are doing, believe me, that ain't it. And you know what? I couldn't stay home. I couldn't stay put. What chance I had of making myself heard, no matter how small or ineffective, I had to take it. Not to mention how everyone everywhere seemed sure there'd be hardly anyone, that the Circus Maximus was too large to fill, that it'd be a flop.
Boy how many people there were. (2.5 millions of them, the organizers said, right before Veltroni's speech begun. Couldn't count them all myself, sorry...)
There were two twin marches going on, to split the partecipants somewhat, and I heard that the second one couldn't even get in. We were ahead enough so that we were in sight of the stand, but whatever we saw we saw on the megascreen next to it. Not that it mattered, the sound system was good enough that I could hear every word. And of course I clapped my hands, I couldn't help myself, I clapped them raw - and the absolute best thing was those times when you could feel the cheers raising behind you, far behind you, then getting bigger, coming closer, until it took the people all around you.
I am glad I went.