The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard warns that “Events in Italy are turning serious.” He goes on to say that most but not all economists agree Italy has been suffering from a deep recession-cum-depression for almost six years, and that at least another two or three years of retrenchment — and increasingly painful government austerity measures — will be required before a return to growth is achieved.
A growing number of Italians, however, are not prepared to suffer through two more years of austerity, and many of them are desperate enough to take to the streets in protest against EU-mandated government austerity measures, even violent protest.
Italy: Austerity and social unrest
The prolonged economic slump is producing social unrest in Italy. Overall unemployment rates approaching 20% and youth unemployment rates over 40%, combined with drastic reductions in the social safety net due to austerity measures, are a recipe for social unrest.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano made a speech recently in which he warned of “widespread social tension and unrest” in 2014. He goes on to talk about how those at the social margins are lured into “indiscriminate and violent protest, a sterile lurch towards total opposition”.
Mr. Napolitano is certainly aware of the discontent shifting the political ground under his feet, but as Evans-Pritchard rightly points out, Napolitano is firmly committed to the EU project, which basically rules out any solution except waiting it out.
The “Pitchfork Revolution”
Italy has seen a number of anti-austerity demonstrations over the last two or three years, mostly peaceful with moderate turnout in most cases. The social climate has changed over the last few months, however, as economic deprivation and disparity is creating bitterness.
Recent demonstrations in a number of Italian cities have become more vociferous and violent, and the current, largely youth-led movement has come to be known as the “Pitchfork Revolution”. Demonstrators were active at several locations in Rome, Venice, and Turin on Saturday, in a continuation of a more than week-long spree of civil disobedience.
Turin is the hub of the “Pitchfork Revolution”
Turin is the epicenter of the protests. The northern Italian city has witnessed dozens of clashes between protestors and law enforcement, with officers using tear gas against protestors who threw stones and paint bombs.
Protesters in Turin have blocked rail traffic and stopped a number of trains at major stations throughout the city. Truckers and students almost completely shut down traffic in and out of Turin earlier this week. Demonstators even tried to pitch tents on a bridge bordering France in the community of Ventimiglia. Local police tried to intervene, but city authorities ordered reinforcements from other security forces.