On October 5th, school students took to the streets in dozens of cities across Italy in protests which saw burning of electoral cards, police baton charges and many arrests.
The date was launched in the last days of the No Tav Camp by the “autonomous” students collective. These protests are the first of the new school year and declared the students’ opposition to Prime Minister Mario Monti and the austerity measures which they view as hitting the weakest hardest. Particularly, protesters attacked the government for its cuts to benefits and public services such as schools.
The biggest demonstration took place in Palermo, Sicily, where 5,000 school students marched behind a banner saying “Against crisis and austerity, we take back the schools and cities”, effectively blocking the city’s two major roads for its duration. At the end of the march, with reference to the regional elections set to take place in Sicily at the end of the month, the demonstrators set fire to their electoral cards in front of Palermo’s presidential building.
1,000 between school students and other protesters also took to the streets in Turin, including a group from the No TAV movement coming from nearby Val Susa. Shortly after the demonstration started, it stopped just outside the Ministry for Education’s headquarters where eggs and flares where thrown before continuing.
Police had given strict orders about the allowed route of the demonstration and followed the protesters closely. However, at one point, the protesters turned quickly and were able to deviate from their allotted route. The result of this was a vicious police charge (see videos below) which left many of the school students badly injured and 15 arrested.
After this, however, the students regrouped and managed to continue on their ‘wild’ march through the city chanting “the streets are ours, we take them back”. Finally, at the end of the march, demonstrators burnt effigies of several local politicians. The students also called for a popular assembly next week where the days of struggle in the weeks to come will be discussed.
There was also violence at the demonstration in Rome, where police had forbidden students to protest in the city’s historic centre. The students, angered by this as Rome’s historic centre is where its government buildings are, decided to ignore this and attempted to retake the streets of the old-city. However, they were met with what has been described as “an explosion of violence” on the part of the police against the students. A 15-year-old uninvolved in the protest was also arrested after being beaten and dragged across the floor by police.
Italy’s ‘red’ regions also saw protests, with demonstrations in Pisa, Livorno, Florence, Massa, Modena and Bologna. In Bologna, as students marched past the Greek consulate, a group of protesters climbed up the side of the building and took down the Greek flag, replacing it with a banner reading “in solidarity with the struggle of the Greek people and anti-fascists”.
Coming a few days after a national transport strike, these demonstrations signalled a reawakening of the Italian student movement after the explosion of protests across southern Europe in recent weeks. They raise the possibility that, after Greece, Spain and Portugal, Italy may not be that far behind.
More sources and videos here.