A massive rally has taken place in central Rome to protest against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government. It was organised by the country’s biggest opposition group, the Democratic Party, which claims it drew more than two million people.
The controversial government plans unveiled by the education minister on Thursday include budget and job cuts at universities.
They have sparked chaos nationwide, with many students skipping classes for weeks, or occupying classrooms, and some teachers joining in the protest. “We came all the way from southern Italy to demand social justice. It’s not just banks that should receive help but also ordinary citizens for whom the cost of living is too high,” said one protestor.
Asked whether another kind of Italy is possible, another said “Yes, we have come here with great hope for the sake of a country which risks going adrift but doesn’t deserve that.” “We are not here to protest against Berlusconi himself but against a political party which threatens democracy in Italy,” said another.
Berlusconi retains an approval rating of more than 60 percent in some polls as his conservative government implements policies aimed at cracking down on crime and illegal immigration.
Earlier this week, the prime minister warned the state would not tolerate sit-ins and that the police would break up student protests if they disrupted schools, a comment he later denied making.