Covid crackdown protests in Italy turn violent

Credit: AP

Protests against the new Covid-19 restrictions in several of Italy's major cities, including Turin and Milan, have turned violent as anger escalates at the tough new measures brought in to stem rising infections.

Police fired tear gas after a group of demonstrators in the northern city of Turin broke off from a peaceful protest, smashing store windows on a shopping street, setting off smoke bombs and hurling bottles at police in a main city square, local broadcasters said.

A photographer was reported to have been injured by a hurled bottle, state TV channel RAI said.

Police confront demonstrators as clashes broke out during a protest against the government restriction measures Credit: Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP

Earlier, some 300 taxis peacefully lined up to draw attention to their economic losses from the implosion of tourism and disappearance of workers from the city centre.

Triggering the violence in Turin were a group of “ultras” - violent football fans - the LaPresse news agency said. It said five of the protesters were detained by authorities.

In Italy’s business capital, Milan, police also used tear gas to scatter protesters, and an Associated Press journalist saw at least two people detained.

The protests began shortly after the national government’s order took effect requiring bars, 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.

As most Italians rather eat out before 7:30pm at the earliest, the decree has effectively wiped out most of restaurants’ already reduced revenue in the pandemic, although takeout and delivery can continue until midnight.

A police officer confronts a man during a protest Credit: Luca Bruno/AP

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

Last week, a peaceful march by shopkeepers and other business owners in Naples, upset about a regional curfew that orders citizens off the streets at 11pm, turned violent near the Campania region’s headquarters.