Protests against Italy's covid-19 restrictions turn violent in Verona, Genova and Palermo.
Italy's wave of protests over the latest covid-19 restrictions continued last night with clashes in the northern cities of Verona and Genova and in the Sicilian capital Palermo.
The citizens' protests - against Italy's new rules that oblige bars and restaurants to close at 18.00 and gyms, swimming pools, cinemas and theatres to close completely - continue to be infiltrated by fringe groups intent on causing trouble.
A demonstration outside the Liguria regional headquarters in Genova comprised around 500 people including small business owners and self-employed people, as well as representatives of the Genovese right and left.
The first part of the protest took place without incident, with Genoa mayor Marco Bucci stopping to speak to demonstrators at 18.00, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
"Some of the people in the piazza demonstrated, wearing masks, against the closures of their businesses - gym managers, restaurateurs, bartenders - but I also saw people who had little to do with it, without masks and who created a crowd and this is not good" - Bucci told ANSA - "I spoke with the commissioner and the prefect and asked that the police prevent all this."
Tensions arose at 20.00 with the arrival of "ultràs" football hooligans from Genoa and Sampdoria, who chanted slogans including "Libertà" and "If you close us you have to pay us" before throwing smoke bombs, flares and glass bottles at police.
Many of the demonstrators disassociated themselves from the clashes which spread into surrounding streets in the city centre until being brought under control by riot police.
The city of Verona in the northern Veneto region also saw clashes between far-right demonstrators and police, with fireworks thrown at officers who responded with tear gas. A protest against the government's anti-covid measures began near the city's Arena but descended into violence at Piazza delle Erbe.
The Sicilian capital of Palermo also saw clashes between protesters and police yesterday evening. A demonstration, organised by traders, began peacefully at 18.00 but turned violent on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Italian media reports that left-wing protesters threw flares and bottles against riot police.
A firework hit a reporter who was taken away by ambulance. Police chased the protesters who overturned rubbish bins, flower boxes and benches on Corso Vittorio before dispersing into the alleys of the historic centre.
The violent element of the protests is not "centrally organised" but is orchestrated by "separate groups of far-right and far-left extremists, soccer ultras and criminal elements," according to the findings of a national committee for public order and security meeting, chaired by Italy's interior minister Luciana Lamorgese and involving top police, intelligence and security officials, on 28 October.
Covid-19 in Italy
The latest round of demonstrations, which began a week ago and have also seen violent clashes in Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin in recent days, occurred as Italy registered a record-high number of new covid-19 cases on 28 October - almost 25,000 over the previous 24 hours, with 205 coronavirus-related deaths.
On 27 October Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte unveiled a stimulus package worth €5.4 billion to support businesses hit by the government's new restrictions aimed at curbing the second wave of covid-19.
The package, which includes tax breaks, grants and additional funds for temporary lay-off schemes, comes amid rising social tensions in Italy.
Cover image Fotogramma