April 2014 – ITALY – An anti-austerity protest in Italy has turned violent as demonstrators clashed with police in the capital Rome. Police fired tear gas and made a number of arrests in attempts to bring the crowd under control on Saturday as clashes with the police left several people injured, according to medics and an AFP news agency photographer. Protesters threw eggs and oranges at government buildings before turning on police, as officers tried to disperse the crowd by surging towards the group and blasting them with tear gas, leaving many protesters fleeing down side streets. According to the interior ministry, six people were taken into custody, and one protester was seriously hurt after a firecracker apparently exploded prematurely in his hand. Made up of workers, students and anti-austerity campaigners, the demonstration, which was against high housing costs and unemployment attracted 15,000 according to protest organizers. Taking aim at 39-year-old Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his plans to reform labour rules, protesters were angry over plans to make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees. Al Jazeera’s Claudio Lavanga, reporting from Rome, said some of the protesters were angry over issues the Renzi government inherited from previous governments, but many opposed his labour market reforms.
“So far Italians seem cautiously optimistic about Renzi’s proposed tax cuts, but two months in the job, he has faced the anger of those who oppose his drive for reforms,” he said. Federico Bicerni, the youth head of the Italian Marxist Leninist Party told the Reuters news agency: “They are reducing democracy. Renzi’s labour reforms will worsen the situation for workers without job security, hitting young people when they are already struggling. The rage of the people in the squares today is justified.” Renzi, who came to power in February, has put forward an ambitious economic reform program which will see public spending reduced by $6.2bn dollars. With the country’s unemployment rate reaching a record 13 percent in February, he says reforms are a “precondition for economic recovery.” Speaking last week, Renzi said the changes were needed as “there are those who have taken much, too much over the years, and it is time they give some back.” –Al Jazeera