(ANSA) - Milan, December 17 - The head of Italy's powerful industrialists' confederation said Tuesday that nationwide austerity protests were "amply justified". "In recent years we haven't been very focused on doing what's necessary to stoke economic growth," said Confindustria President Giorgio Squinzi, noting "widespread malaise" throughout the country. "The situation of Italy's real economy is dramatic in many cases. These protests are starting to become a visible manifestation of a situation that remains extremely difficult". Protests have snarled traffic and interrupted commerce in various cities throughout Italy for the past week under the banner of the Pitchfork Movement, a loose-knit network originally composed of truckers and farmers opposed to austerity-driven tax hikes that has since grown into an umbrella group for the country's disgruntled, anti-government masses. A large-scale demonstration in Rome is scheduled Wednesday. Authorities fear violence is likely. Numerous probes have been open across Italy into incidents of looting, destruction of private property, and other acts of aggression.