Italian politicians warn government to listen to protesters

22nd October 2011, Comments 0 comments

The head of Italy's Senate called Saturday on the government to listen to the country's disaffected youth as violent militants threatened to disrupt a large protest planned for Sunday.

"The hopes and demands of the non-violent should be listened to and deserve the maximum attention," Senate President Renato Schifani told journalists.

Groups who clashed with police at an "Indignants" protest in Rome last Saturday in which 135 people were injured have threatened to join a protest on Sunday near Turin against a planned high-speed train line.

Officials have blocked off the surrounding area and 1,600 police officers will be monitoring the demonstration, which organisers say will be peaceful.

Schifani, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right party, called for "collaboration and institutional solidarity" to resolve a "dangerous situation which could result in unacceptable levels of violence."

The Rome riot last weekend sparked accusations of blame across the political sphere, with the opposition slamming the government for poor police management while Berlusconi allies warned the left of violent extremists in their midst.

The head of the Puglia region, left-winger Nichi Vendola, said the militants will be able to "recruit others thanks to the growing desperation of the younger generation and an ineffective state."

"The plight of temporary workers, the lives precarious workers lead, that is the principal problem" behind the violence, he said in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper.

The group of violent protesters -- which numbered between 500 and 2,000 at Rome's riot according to official reports -- "is not yet an armed (political) party, but it risks becoming one," he said.

Sunday's planned peaceful protest at Susa, near Turin, is organised by the No Tav (No to high-speed trains) movement, whose demonstrations have been infiltrated by violent activists and hooligans in the past.

France and Italy signed a deal in 2001 on building a line through the area, which is to be a strategic link in the European network and allow travel time between Milan and Paris to be slashed from seven to four hours.

The cost has been estimated at 15 billion euros (21 billion dollars). But residents of the Susa Valley have fiercely opposed the plan, saying the construction of tunnels would damage the environment.

© 2011 AFP

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