Italy students protest budget cuts

Thousands take to the streets a week after some of the most violent protests in Rome in years.

    Despite scuffles with police in some cities, Wednesday's protest against the university bill were largely peaceful [AFP]

    Thousands of students in cities across Italy have protested against a law that would result in cuts to university budget expected to be approved by parliament this week.

    Police blocked off large parts of central Rome, the capital, to prevent a repeat of last week's violent clashes, but students managed to avoid the blockade.

    Instead the demonstrators occupied part of a highway running to the east of the city, but many students made it clear they intended the action to be a peaceful one.

    Some carried flags and banners emblazoned with non-violent slogans, and many had painted their hands white as a representation of their peaceful intent.

    However clashes broke out at a protest in the city of Palermo, and there were reports of incidents in Naples, Milan and Turin.

    The government says the new law, which could be voted on Wednesday or Thursday, will strengthen Italy's crumbling university system. But critics say will only cut funding without solving real problems.

    Battle over reform

    The battle over university reform has highlighted discontent over the future of Italy's youth, which has been fuelled by an official youth unemployment rate of around 25 per cent in the country and up to 35 per cent in the poorer south.

    "We will certainly continue mobilising," Claudio Rizzo, a Rome student, told the Reuters news agency.

    "It's not only a mobilisation against university reforms but of a generation that is making itself heard again over the politics of the country, the issues we face and the precarious situation in which we live."

    During last week's demonstration, cars were torched and shop windows smashed in street battles between protesters and riot police after the initially peaceful march descended into some of the worst violence seen in Rome for years.

    Some 41 people were taken into custody and almost 100 were reported injured in the action.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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