Italy protest over new virus crackdown turn violent

MILAN (AP) — Protesters turned out by the hundreds in Turin, Milan and other Italian cities and towns on Monday to vent their anger, sometimes violently, at the latest pandemic restrictions that force restaurants and cafes to close early and shutter cinemas, gyms and other leisure venues.

In the northern city of Turin, some demonstrators broke off from a peaceful protest, smashing store windows on an elegant shopping street, setting smoke bombs and hurling bottles at police in a main city square where the Piedmont regional government is headquartered, RAI state TV said.

A photographer was injured by a hurled bottle, RAI said. Police fired tear gas to clear the protesters in Piazza del Castello.

In that same square, hours earlier, some 300 taxis peacefully lined up in neat rows to draw attention to their economic losses from the implosion of tourism and disappearance of workers from the city centre as they do their jobs remotely during the pandemic.

Triggering the violence in Turin were a group of ‘ultras’, as violent football fans are known, the LaPresse news agency said.

Riot police fire tear gas as clashes broke out during a protest against the government’s restriction measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Turin, Italy. PHOTO: AP

It said five of the protesters were detained by authorities.

In Italy’s business capital, Milan, police used tear gas to scatter protesters on Monday night, and an Associated Press (AP) journalist saw at least two people detained.

The protests began shortly after the national government’s order took effect requiring cafes and restaurants to close their doors at 6pm for the next 30 days as Italy tries to rein the resurgence of coronavirus infections in recent weeks.

Since most Italians don’t dine out before 7.30pm at the earliest, the decree effectively wiped out most of the restaurants’ already reduced revenue in the pandemic, although takeout and delivery can continue until midnight.

The crackdown was announced on Sunday, a day after Italy registered over a half million confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic’s outbreak.