[QODLink]
Europe

Italian students stage anti-austerity protest

Marches against education spending cuts fill Rome's famed avenues after leaders push through new economic measures.
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2012 15:25
Three student protests converged into one mass march in the Italian capital [AFP]

Thousands of students and teachers have marched through central Rome to protest against education spending cuts.

Saturday's demonstration comes as Mario Monti, the prime minister, pushed through "austerity measures"; raising taxes and reining in public spending, at a time when schools and universities say they desperately need more support. 

"We need to fight for our rights. This government doesn't represent us and these austerity measures and all the cuts they've introduced are totally anti-democratic," Tommaso Bernardi, student protester, said.

Italy's education system is "crumbling into pieces", Michele Orezzi, a university union co-ordinator, said.

"We need to change this country, starting from investments in schools, universities and culture."

Al Jazeera's Caludio Lavanga reports from Rome

Youth unemployment stands at about 35 per cent, more than three times the national average, and with Monti's austerity policies biting into education spending, school pupils and university students have taken an active role in anti-government protests.

Students have occupied schools around Rome in recent weeks to express their anger and frustration at repeated funding cuts, chaining gates shut and camping inside classrooms.

Monti has defended his austerity plan, saying his technocrat government - appointed a year ago when Italy faced a Greek-style debt crisis - would be remembered for having helped Italy pull itself out of a deep economic malaise without resorting to borrowing from foreign lenders.

"Rome is a city in lockdown," Al Jazeera's Claudio Lavanga reported from the Italian capital.

"As for now, it has been a peaceful demonstration, but most of the roads into the city centre are still closed."

Several other protests are due to take place in Rome later on Saturday, including a rally organised by a far-right group and another by an opposing anti-fascist demonstration.

Police have organised different routes and times for the rallies to reduce the risk of violence, after scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators during recent protests that saw officers criticised for heavy-handed tactics.

"I hope we'll see a lot of people here today because we need to make ourselves heard," Davide Marini, a student, said.

"The demonstration on November 14 was a great one but I hope today there will be no clashes because the thing is when there are clashes that's all everyone then talks about - and no attention is given to the real reason we are demonstrating."

Earlier, a summit to try and agree the European Union's new trillion-dollar budget ended in failure on Friday.

After two days of bitter bargaining in Brussels, EU leaders remain divided over whether to continue with austerity programmes or to spend more to boost growth.

475

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.