(By Christopher Livesay)
(ANSA) - Rome, December 16 - Ongoing austerity protests and
a national transportation strike brought chaos to Italy on
Monday as leaders in the anti-government Pitchfork Movement
vowed to bring their demonstrations to Rome later in the week.
Major cities such as Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin
experienced serious traffic jams during a morning-long strike
called by transit-workers' unions.
Meanwhile anti-austerity protests launched last week
carried on throughout the country despite some setbacks within
the various groups involved.
A leader in the neo-Fascist group CasaPound was sentenced
Monday to three months in jail and fined 100 euros for tearing
down a European Union flag from the EU's Rome offices over the
Simone Di Stefano, the national vice-president of the club
and fledgling political party, was arrested Saturday during a
snap demonstration after he erected a ladder, scaled the EU
building and removed the EU flag in an attempt to replace it
with an Italian tricolor.
CasaPound and extreme-right-wing movement Forza Nuova were
demonstrating outside the courthouse as it made its ruling in
the case Monday.
Both groups have participated in the Pitchfork
demonstrations, which originally consisted primarily of
disgruntled truckers and farmers and has since grown to
represent anti-government and anti-European sentiment of all
Some leaders in the Movement have blamed "subversive
fringes" from the extreme right for hijacking protests and
spreading violence, looting and destroying public property.
On Friday a spokesman from the loose-knit Movement raised
suspicions of an extreme-right agenda when he blamed Jewish
bankers for "enslaving" recession-weary Italy.
On Monday the Movement was showing signs of losing
Local Pitchfork groups in the Sicily and Veneto regions
announced they would not be attending a large-scale
demonstration scheduled Wednesday in Rome for fear of violence.
Still, Movement leader Lucio Chiavegato was undeterred.
He acknowledged evidence of a "violent fringe" marching
alongside his Movement, but said the group's "eight million
demonstrators" made it impossible to account for everyone.
Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said the city was prepared for
any outcome during protests and would not tolerate protesters
blocking traffic in the way that has typified demonstrations
elsewhere in the country.
"The city has no intention of its soil being occupied by
tents in places like Piazza del Popolo, especially not right
before Christmas," said Marino.
"We will not tolerate unauthorized sit-ins of public
property nor violence".
Pitchfork leaders were still discussing the form that
protests should take in Rome.
One faction said it would not "march" in the city, but
would "take a peaceful and quiet walk", adding it was studying
other forms of unconventional protest, possibly to take place
over the course of two days.