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Truckers continue second day of wildcat strikes in Italy

Pitchfork Movement draws outcry, while police doff helmets

10 December, 13:37
Truckers continue second day of wildcat strikes in Italy (see previous).

(ANSA) - Rome, December 10 - Hundreds of truckers in Italy on Tuesday entered a second day of strikes as part of the so-called Pitchfork (Forconi) Movement, blocking or slowing transportation in a number of cities in Italy.

The nationwide wildcat strike protesting heavy taxes, high fuel costs and alleged government mismanagement has hit northwestern Italy with particular force, especially in Turin.

Traffic came to a crawl in Turin, Genoa, and cities west of Genoa, Savona and Imperia, where protesters blocked major arteries. A senator for the Piedmont region, where Turin is located, appealed to Interior Minister Angelino Alfano and Premier Enrico Letta for more security forces, and warned the situation "is becoming a true emergency." "Take into account that Turin is the epicentre of this subversive protest with disturbing traits. This can not be faced with 150 men," said Stefano Esposito, who is with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

In Turin, two separate processions disrupted transportation and commerce, when Pitchfork demonstrators and hundreds of students protested simultaneously. Shopkeepers complained they had to lower their shutters to protect themselves against passing demonstrators.

Leader of the Pitchfork Movement Mariano Ferro told ANSA the strike would go on for days before closing it with a descent on the government in Rome. The strike is scheduled to continue through Friday.

"It is not time to go to Rome. It is necessary to live through a few more days of passion, and make Italians' adrenaline rise," Ferro told ANSA in a telephone call.

Ferro attributed the violence in Turin on Monday to "four hooligans, but the vast majority (of the protests) were peaceful".

Police fired teargas at protesters who threw rocks, and 14 policemen were injured in demonstrations by the end of the day. Police in Turin on Monday also removed their anti-riot helmets after blocking an assault of 50 troublemakers on Turin's tax revenue agency in a gesture many, including demonstrators, interpreted as a sign of solidarity. Police in Bolzano also doffed helmets in an assault on the local tax agency office, as well as in Genoa, when demonstrators passed the city's police headquarters. Police unions UGL, SIULP, and leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of Beppe Grillo claim police were acting in solidarity with protesters. "We share and applaud the gesture of those policemen who took off their helmets in a sign of solidarity with demonstrators who peacefully showed their malaise at the grave crisis that Italy is going through," said Valter Mazzetti, national secretary of the state police union UGL. Meanwhile Bolzano and Turin police headquarters called the gesture normal operating procedure.

Turin police headquarters said police removal of riot gear under the circumstances was "normal behavior" linked with "defusing tension and the needs of public order".

In all three incidents demonstrators gave a long applause to police. Piedmont union leaders for CGIL, CISL and UIL on Tuesday distanced themselves from the protest movement which has become particularly acute in their home territory. "The hardship of families, of workers, of the unemployed is palpable, but the demonstrators like those yesterday in Turin don't do anything, because they don't have proposals, they don't have representation. They look only for chaos and are not clear because they don't have the background," said Alberto Tomasso, Giovanna Ventura and Gianni Cortese, regional heads for CGIL, CISL and UIL, respectively, in a joint statement.

The union leaders on Tuesday morning presented reasons for staging a joint demonstration on December 14 against the 2014 budget bill currently in parliament.