Over the past four days “pitchfork protests” have spread to numerous cities, disrupting road and rail travel in protest of the state of the economy.
The pitchfork movement started with a loose group of Sicilian farmers concerned about rising taxes and cuts to agricultural state funds, then evolved into a nationwide umbrella grouping of truckers, small businessman, the unemployed, low-paid workers, rightwing extremists and ultras football supporters according to IBTimes.
Map of Major Protests
Map courtesy of Stratfor.
Pitchfork Protests Spread to Rome
Reuters reports Italy’s ‘pitchfork protests,’ in fourth day, spread to Rome.
Italy’s “pitchfork” protests spread to Rome on Thursday when hundreds of students clashed with police and threw firecrackers outside a university where government ministers were attending a conference.
Truckers, small businessmen, the unemployed, students and low-paid workers have staged four days of rallies in cities from Turin in the north to Sicily in the south in the name of the “pitchfork” movement, originally a loosely organized group of farmers from Sicily.
“There are millions of us and we are growing by the hour. This government has to go,” said Danilo Calvani, a farmer who has emerged as one of the leader of the protests.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told parliament the unrest could “lead to a spiral of rebellion against national and European institutions.”
The protests are fuelled by falling incomes, unemployment above 12 percent and at a record 41 percent among people below 25, and graft and scandals among politicians widely seen as serving their own rather than the country’s interests.
The protesters’ precise aims remain vague beyond demanding the government be replaced and parliament dissolved. Targets range from tax collection agency Equitalia and high fuel prices to privileged elites and the euro.
Mario Borghezio, an outspoken Northern League member of the European Parliament, on Thursday used the protests to attack the euro and European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi.
“The wind of revolt that is blowing in Italy today is the direct result of the euro and the wrong choices made by the EU and the ECB,” he said during the ECB chief’s testimony to the European Parliament.
‘Pitchfork’ Protests Rattle Italian Government
The BBC reports ‘Pitchfork’ Protests Rattle Italian Government
First it was the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, led by charismatic comedian Beppe Grillo, that shook up Italy’s political landscape.
Now a new populist movement headed by disgruntled farmers and lorry drivers has taken its anti-austerity message to Italy’s streets and squares.
The past week has seen four days of rallies and protest actions across the country by the Forconi, or “Pitchforks”. The name derives from the movement’s roots among struggling farmers in Sicily, who in 2011 and 2012 staged strikes and roadblocks to demand more help from the government.
The loose-knit grouping has expanded nationwide and has drawn in a variety of groups who have suffered badly as Italy’s economic crisis has dragged on. The protesters include road hauliers, small businessmen, low-paid workers, the unemployed and students.
Some of the protesters complain of excessive state regulation and are unhappy about austerity-driven tax hikes. Others have denounced capitalism and the euro.
All seem to be united in their contempt for Italy’s politicians, who are accused of failing to address the country’s grave economic problems.
‘Drift into rebellion’
The Italian government on Thursday expressed its concern and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano warned of the danger of a “drift into rebellion” by the movement. He spoke of the protests drawing in elements bent on violence.
Beppe Grillo Urges Police to Join Movement
Reuters reports Italy’s Grillo urges police to join “pitchfork” protests
The head of Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement Beppe Grillo urged police on Tuesday to join protesters as a wave of “pitchfork” protests gave vent to bitter frustration after years of austerity and recession.
Grillo, whose movement has no direct connection with the protests, welcomed reports that several police officers took off their riot helmets and expressed sympathy with demonstrators on Monday.
“Italians are on your side. Join them. At the next demonstrations, tell your guys to take off their helmets and fraternize with the citizens,” he wrote on his popular blog. “It will be an extreme, peaceful and revolutionary signal and Italy will change,” he wrote.
Though there are no direct ties to Grillo’s movement, both tap into the growing anger in many parts of Italy after the worst recession in postwar history.
Letta has warned repeatedly that opposition to the government and the EU is growing strongly, fuelled by sacrifices needed to keep public finances in order and which could result in a massive anti-EU vote in next year’s European parliamentary elections.
Eventually, Will Come a Time When ….
I repeat once again my 2011 message Eventually, Will Come a Time When ….
Eventually, there will come a time when a populist office-seeker will stand before the voters, hold up a copy of the EU treaty and (correctly) declare all the “bail out” debt foisted on their country to be null and void. That person will be elected.
Greece, Finland, Germany, Belgium, and even France are possibilities. All it will take, is for one charismatic person, timing social mood correctly, to say precisely one right thing at exactly the right time. It will happen.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock