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News, October 2013
Italian Protesters Take on Police, Economy Ministry, Disrupt Traffic During Mass March Against Government Austerity Budget
October 20, 2013
Italian protesters take on police during mass march against austerity budget
Published time: October 19, 2013 19:29
Russia TV --
Violence broke out between police and demonstrators in Rome on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest Italy’s new budget.
Fifteen protesters were arrested and at least 20 police officers were injured, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“We are laying siege to the city!” chanted the crowd, as a small minority pelted the police and government buildings with water bottles and eggs.
A group of protesters turned over garbage bins and set some of them on fire in front of the Economy Ministry.
Police say they confiscated tear gas canisters and rocks from some of the radicals in the predominantly youthful crowd and found chains stashed away along the route of the march. Organizers estimated that 70,000 people took part in the protest, while authorities placed the number closer to 50,000. “With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees,” said Piero Bernocchi, leader of the left-wing COBAS trade union that was behind the demonstration.
“Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling, and unemployment soaring, they still continue with these policies.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Enrico Letta - who is presiding over a fractious Left-Right coalition - presented the 2014 budget that immediately came under a firestorm of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. Left-wingers criticized the document for freezing state sector pay and pensions, while right-wingers and businesses said it failed to stimulate growth with insufficient cuts to Italy’s oppressive corporate taxes.
Italy annually spends around 800 billion euro – a sum it cannot afford as it struggles with a recession that started more than two years ago. The latest budget aims to cut the deficit to 2.5 percent – still worse than most of Europe. On Friday, a general strike paralyzed transport links in the country and forced the cancellation of flights in and out of Rome. But Saturday’s protests weren’t just about pay. Some called for the government to abandon an expensive fast-train link with France. Others demanded that Italy provide more social housing. Many bemoaned the country’s treatment of immigrants, who have suffered several tragic incidents in recent months as they attempted to reach the coast of Italy. Letta has gone on television to defend his government, but dissenters have not been placated and say that even bigger demonstrations will be staged next week.
Italian protests against Letta government disrupt transport
By Catherine Hornby and Francesca Piscioneri
Fri Oct 18, 2013, 7:14am EDT
ROME (Reuters) -
Civil servants, hospital staff and transport workers went on strike on Friday in protest against Prime Minister Enrico Letta's government, causing disruptions in Rome and across the country.
The strikes, organized by the far left Cobas union, are the first in two days of planned protests and could test the unity of Letta's uneasy left-right coalition just weeks after he survived a confidence vote in parliament.
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.
"With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees," said Cobas spokesman Piero Bernocchi as he prepared to join a rally in central Rome.
"Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling and unemployment soaring they still continue with these policies," he said.
More than 100 flights were cancelled at Rome's Fiumicino airport, 80 percent of buses were not running in the capital and rail and underground services were disrupted in other cities.
"We are tired, we are fed-up, we can't live in this way. They are continuing to cut and ask for enormous sacrifices. Enough is enough!," said protester Aida Utaggio, waving a banner at the start of the march in Rome.
Letta had built up expectations the budget would reverse years of austerity with a cut in payroll taxes, but was unable to deliver due to disagreements in the government over how to fund them.
The result was only a marginal adjustment of tax rates and, while the package involved no net fiscal tightening, it continued unpopular policies like salary and hiring freezes and blocks on inflation adjustments for pensions.
MORE PROTESTS LOOM
Letta took office in April after an inconclusive February election but his unpopular government, combining his Democratic Party (PD) with its traditional center-right rival the People of Freedom (PDL), has been riven by internal disputes which have prevented the reforms needed to help the economy recover.
Susanna Camusso, secretary of Italy's biggest trade union CGIL, told Italian Radio 24 on Friday that the three main unions - the CGIL, CISL and UIL - were working towards a national general strike against the budget.
The budget has also been attacked by employers, the media, and senior politicians in Letta's coalition, who have virtually disowned the package.
This raises the risk it may be completely overhauled during its passage through parliament and that a new political crisis may not be far away after PDL leader Silvio Berlusconi came close to toppling Letta earlier this month.
Rome is gearing up for further protests on Saturday when leftist and anarchist groups will march in the capital. Some are planning to camp overnight in the square in front of St. John's Basilica, a traditional site for union rallies.
Thousands of police will be stationed in the center in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the violence seen at similar protests in October 2011, when several people were injured as protesters rioted, smashed windows and set fire to cars.
(Additional reporting by Cristiano Corvino, Editing by Gavin Jones and Angus MacSwan)
Protests in Rome turn violent as demonstrators attack economy ministry
Anti-austerity rally in Rome turns violent as a small band of rioters clash with police
By Nick Squires, Rome
Telegraph, UK, 6:49PM BST, 19 October, 2013
At least 100 protesters in hoods and motorcycle helmets attacked the Italian economy ministry in Rome on Saturday after a march against austerity turned violent.
Protesters with masks over their faces hurled flares, bottles and thunder flashes at a line of police guarding the entrance to the government building.
They beat the plastic shields of the police with sticks and poles. Police then charged the crowds, scattering them down side streets where they set fire to rubbish bins.
"This is just the start," said one masked young man.
A crowd of tens of thousands marched through central Rome in what started as a peaceful protest. Organisers said 70,000 people were taking part, while police put the number at around 50,000.
It was then hijacked by gangs of extremists who had come prepared for trouble. Police had seized potential weapons including chains, helmets, clubs and cobblestones and detained 14 people ahead of the protest.
The majority of the crowd were protesting peacefully about low wages, austerity measures, unemployment and environmental issues.
Some of the protesters had camped out overnight on Piazza San Giovanni square following a trade union demonstration and transport strike on Friday.
"We are protesting a one-way austerity that is bringing the country to its knees," said Piero Bernocchi from Italy's Cobas trade union group.
"And it hasn't achieved what it was meant to by bringing down debt," he said, adding: "Meanwhile politicians continue with their privileges."
Italy is struggling to shake off a two-year recession that has pushed unemployment to record levels, shut down thousands of businesses and forced many young Italians to leave the country.
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