Violence mars anti-government protests in Italy

Italy is just a few weeks away from a referendum on unpopular government reforms that could decide the uncertain fate of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

One police officer was injured as protests against reforms that would cut the power of the Senate and regional governments turned violent.

Tensions are high in the Italian city of Florence after protests against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government turned violent on Saturday.

Hundreds of protesters clashed with police as they marched the streets to denounce government plans to push forward reforms in an upcoming referendum they say will introduce curbs on democracy.

Reforms would see a reduction in the role of the Senate and regional government, a move protesters argue will lead to an excessive concentration of power if they pass the Dec. 4 referendum.

The unauthorised protest was organised to coincide with Prime Minister Renzi’s attendance to his Democratic Party's annual "Leopolda" convention being held in the city, where he once served as mayor.

Only one out of 33 opinion polls suggest the reforms will be approved in the Dec. 4 referendum.

Demonstrators held up "No to Renzi" and "No to Leopolda" banners to protest the unpopular reforms, which have face widespread opposition across the country.

But Saturday’s incidents is the first time protests have boiled over into violence. One police officer was injured in the leg as protesters hurled smoke bombs, stones and firecrackers.

Police in riot gear responded by charging at crowds with their batons.

Florence mayor Dario Nardella, who was passing by the protests, later told his counterparts at the Leopolda convention that the violence was “despicable and unacceptable."

"Saying no is legitimate, destroying Florence is unacceptable," he said.

TRTWorld and agencies