A demonstrator is detained by policemen during a protest in downtown Rome April 12, 2014. (Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi)
At least 80 people – both police and protesters – have been injured as street battles broke out in Rome, with rocks being flung and police deploying pepper spray. Thousands took to the street to march against austerity measures.
Blasts and sirens could be heard as a splinter group of masked protesters launched firecrackers, eggs and rocks at police, who defended themselves with shields. One protester had his hand blown off by a firecracker he was yet to throw. At least six people were arrested, police said.
The march started at roughly 14:00 from Porta Pia, with the crowd stating they were protesting in favor of affordable housing and plans for new labor regulations which would make firing and hiring easier.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is in the process of making mass economic reforms. Youth unemployment has risen to well over 40 percent.
“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,” a 23 year old graduate from Modena named Federico Bicerni told Reuters.
Italy is still suffering from the effects of austerity measures, budget cuts and mass unemployment.
The Rome-based national statistics office, ISTAT announced at the beginning of April that Italy's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate spiked at 13.0 percent in February, rising from 12.9 percent in January - making it the highest level since records started being kept in 1977.
“Unemployment levels are very high. For the time being people can survive thanks to family support…but this is very thin amount of reserves that families can spend to support their family members. At one point in time this could end and people will just be without anything. No job, no house, and no prospective retirement benefits,” Political Analyst Paolo Raffone told RT.“Austerity measures as such are extremely painful if they are not followed by some measures to support people,” he said.
Tens of thousands also marched in France simultaneously. Police stated that some 25,000 joined the protest, while social media estimates placed the figure closer to 100,000.
Protesters in Paris waved banners declaring that “When you are leftist you support employees,” in criticism of Hollande’s business-friendly reforms which are seemingly abandoning the ideals of the left.