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Government will 'suppress' criminal behavior by Pitchforkers

Threats or intimidation at protests not allowed, says Alfano

11 December, 15:23
Government will 'suppress' criminal behavior by Pitchforkers (See related) (ANSA) - Rome, December 11 - Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said Wednesday that the government will not hesitate to "suppress" any criminal behavior by the so-called 'Forconi' (Pitchfork) Movement.

Demonstrations by Pitchfork members have stretched from Italy's south to the north, where cities such as Milan and Turin have so far shown the greatest turnout. Protestors have shouted opposition to austerity-driven tax hikes, voiced complaints about tax-collection agency Equitalia, and denounced capitalism and the euro.

Alfano, who is also deputy premier, said that if the line is crossed from peaceful protest to criminal acts, the state will take action.

"We will ensure, through the means of the State, peaceful demonstration...but we will not have any qualms about suppressing threats and intimidation that may be an expression of criminal attitudes," said Alfano.

There has been some violence, including rocks thrown, and property damage during some demonstrations.

The number and type of protests has varied between cities.

In Turin, where protesters opposed to austerity-driven tax hikes have snarled traffic, a large group of student demonstrators was at the forefront of earlier marches. In the port city of Genoa, demonstrators occupied the central square, and in nearby Savona they organized in front of the offices of tax-collection agency Equitalia. Pitchfork leaders also vowed a large-scale demonstration in Rome if MPs did not abstain from a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday. The Pitchfork Movement started among struggling Sicilian farmers early last year and has since spread to their counterparts in northern Italy, enlisting disgruntled or bankrupt truckers and small businessmen as well as swathes of recently impoverished citizens along the way.

Recent protests have also featured rightist groups and hard-core "ultra" soccer fans.

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