Italian anti-austerity protesters clash with police

ROME Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:42pm EDT

1 of 15. A protester clashes with a Guardia di Finanza policeman in front of the Ministry of Finance building in downtown Rome October 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

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ROME (Reuters) - Demonstrators clashed with Italian police on Saturday as tens of thousands marched through Rome to protest against unemployment, government cuts and big construction projects they say take money away from social services.

Hooded protesters turned over garbage bins in front of the Economy Ministry and set several of them on fire. Using sticks and clubs, they attacked police in riot gear. The police charged and chased demonstrators up side streets.

The hooded demonstrators, who infiltrated a mostly peaceful protest, threw smoke bombs, eggs and bottles at the ministry and broke the window of a nearby bank. Police said 15 of the most violent protesters were arrested and two policemen were injured.

In another area along the demonstration route, police defused a large firework with a bullet inside, which they said could have caused serious damage had it gone off.

Protesters also set off smoke bombs and fireworks along the route and many planned to camp out during the night in front of the Infrastructure Ministry, the end of the demonstration.

The protest comes as Prime Minister Enrico Letta is trying to hold together his shaky left-right coalition government and struggling to lead Italy out of its worst post-war recession.

Letta's 2014 budget, unveiled on Tuesday, has become a focal point of discontent, with unions complaining about freezes on public sector salaries and what they say is an insufficient easing of the tax burden on workers. Youth unemployment is at an all time high at 40.1 percent.


Organizers said at least 70,000 people joined the march that started in Piazza San Giovanni on the south side of the city and snaked its way through the city. Many shops along the route were closed as a precaution.

The mostly young demonstrators held up banners against unemployment, lack of affordable housing and the planned TAV high-speed train link to France.

Opponents of the project say that as well as environmental concerns, the money to build the high-speech train should be used to help the poor and unemployed.

"This protest is to demand basic rights: a job paying a wage, and housing," said Matteo, a 20-year-old student from the eastern Marche region, who declined to give his surname.

"All the most downtrodden people are here to protest, unemployed people, students, immigrants, workers without job security," he said.

Immigrants seeking asylum also joined the demonstration, holding banners reading "Lampedusa", the island where many migrants land after crossing the Mediterranean Sea from north Africa. Nearly 400 have died at sea this month alone.

At least 4,000 police were on duty. They said they had confiscated teargas canisters and rocks from some of the demonstrators' backpacks.

They also said they found rocks and chains hidden behind bushes along the route of the demonstration.

Police said 14 people, several from anarchist movements, had been detained at the border with France and suspected of planning to disrupt the demonstration with violence.

(Writing by Philip Pullella; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Alison Williams)

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Comments (15)
OneOfTheSheep wrote:
Those “public works” projects create jobs, but not for the young and inexperienced. They can yell and march and loot and burn until they’re blue in the face and they can’t change the “root cause” of the problem.

World wide populations continue to explode, creating more and more people with little education, no skills, no money, no job and no prospect of one, EVER! Society is doing what NEEDS to be done with fewer and fewer people and that trend will only increase.

The productive can only support so many of the unproductive, and they will increasingly resent a burden that only grows. Increasing strife between the comfortable and the desperate, the civil and the uncivil, is the future that will not be denied until some path becomes clear to a “Star Trek” economy where everyone’s basic needs are met and only those who want to work at what interests them.

Oct 19, 2013 12:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
crucial wrote:
“The productive can only support so many of the unproductive”

who defines productive? you? your failed generation that led us here?

how can society be doing what needs to be done if so many people have nowhere to go?

this generation has reason to be bitter, you do not. your generation failed them.

Oct 19, 2013 2:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jcamargo wrote:
As in other movements around the world, without a clear understanding of the root causes of our current economic stagnation nothing good will come out of this.

Oct 19, 2013 2:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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