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How are Mafia-like groups fomenting COVID riots to expand influence in Italian communities?

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Demonstrators brandish flares and a banner during a protest against restriction measures imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Naples, Italy, Oct. 31, 2020
Demonstrators brandish flares and a banner during a protest against restriction measures imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Naples, Italy, Oct. 31, 2020   -   Copyright  Fabio Sasso/LaPresse via AP
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Experts believe criminal organisations are trying to capitalise on the social unrest sparked by coronavirus restrictions in Italy.

At the end of October, the country was shaken by violent protests across major cities including Milan, Naples and Turin.

Rioters clashed with police as they attacked public buildings, vandalised vehicles and smashed shop windows.

The protests were initially meant to be peaceful, but authorities believe they turned violent when members of criminal organisations joined them.

Banking on businesses' financial difficulties

"Criminal organisations are taking advantage of peaceful protests called by business owners concerned about their future", tells Euronews Giuseppe Antoci, the president of mafia research center Fondazione Caponnetto.

"They turn the protests into violent riots, showing they represent an alternative to the state", he adds.

Antoci believes that there are different criminal groups behind this destabilisation strategy.

However, he thinks they are united by "a common interest", which is convincing the people that the State is letting them down.

"Businesses don't know how long the restrictions will last for. They are concerned about the timing of this".

"That's why it is crucial that the government transfers funds to those affected by the restriction measures as soon as possible", he concluded.

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