Demonstrators clash with policemen during a protest against
austerity measures in downtown Rome. REUTERS/Alessandro
Tens of thousands of people have taken part in protests
in central Paris and Rome organised by hard-left parties
against government economic reform plans and austerity
The protest in Rome turned violent when a large splinter
group - many wearing masks and helmets - threw rocks, eggs,
firecrackers and oranges at riot police in front of the
Riot police with batons charged the group, with protesters
fighting back with rocks and firecrackers. One man lost a
hand when a firecracker exploded before he could throw it.
There were dozens of lighter injuries among police and
protesters, and at least six arrests, police said.
In Paris, protestors marched from the Place de la Republique,
some carrying banners attacking President Francois Hollande
with slogans such as "Hollande, that's enough" and "When you
are leftist you support employees."
French police said that about 25,000 joined the protest,
which came after new Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled
planned tax and spending cuts on Tuesday, vowing to bring
down France's public deficit and following on the heels of
pro-business reforms announced earlier this year by Hollande.
"This is the first demonstration of the left-wing opposition
against the government," Olivie Besancenot, spokesman of the
New Anti-Capitalism Party told i
The turnout, however, was well short of demonstrations in
Paris last year against same-sex marriage that drew hundreds
of thousands. The French Communist Party, on its Twitter
account, estimated Saturday's turnout at 100,000.
The protest in Rome was smaller, drawing several thousand,
according to witnesses. They called for more affordable
housing and took aim at 39-year-old Prime Minister Matteo
Renzi and his plans to reform labour rules to make it easier
for companies to hire and fire employees.
"The problem with the Renzi government is that since it took
power, even though he is supposedly of the left his policies
are of the right," said Federico Bicerni, 23, a graduate from
Modena with a temporary work contract who is also the youth
head of the Italian Marxist Leninist Party.
"They are reducing democracy. Renzi's labour reforms will
worsen the situation for workers without job security,
hitting young people when they are already struggling. The
rage of the people in the squares today is justified," he
Renzi, who took power in February, is seeking to make
sweeping reforms, including tax cuts, to revive Italy's
ailing economy where youth unemployment has risen to well
over 40 percent.
French President Hollande is struggling to turn around a weak
French economy and hard-left parties have urged him to
abandon his business friendly reforms and public sector
deficit targets set by the European Union. They say the
government's plans are hurting growth and are not helping
bring down unemployment, which is above 10 percent.
Hollande announced a so-called "responsibility pact" earlier
this year, which aims to boost the profitability of French
companies by cutting what they pay in social charges by some
30 billion euros.
"A 30 billion gift to big business is something monstrous in
a period of austerity we live in," Left Party leader Jean-Luc
Melenchon told RTL radio on Friday ahead of Saturday's march
Valls was appointed prime minister in a reshuffle this month
after Hollande's Socialist Party suffered a drubbing in
recent local elections where the far-right National Front
made strong gains. Leftist allies grumble that Valls is too
Polls show that the ruling Socialist party will finish third
in next month's European elections, behind the conservative
UMP and the National Front.
"Fiscal discipline and austerity, imposed by the European
Commission, Francois Hollande and the government to satisfy
financial markets feeds an unheathy climate," union
representatives and politicians said in a letter calling on
people to join the march, published on Wednesday on the
website of L'Humanite newspaper, Humanite.fr.
Paris is under EU disciplinary action for running too high a
bugdet gap and has already been granted a two-year delay to
reduce it to within the EU limit of 3 percent of gross
domestic product by the end of 2015.