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Pitchfork protests marred by anti-Semitism

'Italy slave to Jewish bankers' says spokesman

13 December, 19:12
Pitchfork protests marred by anti-Semitism (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Rome, December 13 - Suspicions of a far right-wing agenda operating from within the anti-austerity 'Pitchfork' protests seemed to be confirmed Friday when a spokesman from the group said Italy was a "slave to bankers like the Rothschilds" and said that "five of the world's six richest people are Jews".

"It's curious," added Andrea Zunino in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica printed Friday. "It's something I need to figure out". His remarks were met with sharp rebuke from Italy's Jewish communities, as well as one leader from his own movement. "Such words recall those...that in the history of our continent have brought about the deaths of millions of citizens," said Riccardo Pacifici, president of Rome's Jewish community. Pitchfork leader Mariano Ferro denounced the comments, adding the group should not stand behind "the mentally ill". In his interview, Zunino also praised Beppe Grillo, head of Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, and Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbàn, whose right-wing government has been accused of turning a blind eye to rising anti-Semitism there. "It's true that (Orbàn) is really liberating his country," said Zunino. In Italy, he said the Pitchfork Movement "wants the government to resign. We want a sovereign Italy". The Pitchfork protests began as a loose-knit group of farmers and truckers disgruntled by austerity-driven tax hikes, who demonstrated by blocking freight lines.

Over the week it has grown into a catch-all group for those opposed to the government and the European Union, including a wide array of unemployed, students, and the far-right wing, many of whom have been cited and arrested for looting and destroying public property in various Italian cities, from Milan in the north to Bari in the south. Businesses such as supermarkets and book shops have complained of intimidation from demonstrators who have flooded their stores and told them to either join their movement or close down. Some said they were threatened with violence. Investigations are ongoing throughout the country. A large-scale Pitchfork demonstration is scheduled in Rome on Wednesday. "We don't want open war on the streets," said Pitchfork leader Mariano Ferro. "We apologize to all Italians who have been inconvenienced, but we couldn't do it any other way".

Meanwhile an official in the northwestern Piedmont region, which has seen some of the densest protests in cities like Turin, denounced what she saw as a "neo-Nazi thread". "The Movement resembles Golden Dawn," said regional councillor and former Piedmont governor Mercedes Bresso, referring to the far-right nationalist party in Greece. "It worries me a lot. There's a neo-Nazi thread, which is extremely chilling".