As you may well have heard, Rome was transformed into a battlefield last weekend. Millions of Euros of damage were caused to buildings, businesses and vehicles in Italy’s capital by rioters. The hunt for the mysterious Black Block perpetrators of the violence and destruction is now on.
The Rome riot began as a peaceful demonstration against the lack of future for Italy’s young, the economic crisis, and what is seen as privileges afforded to Italy’s banks. The protest was organised by Italy’s “Occupy” movement which is a spin-off of the Spanish indignados (outraged) group.
While protests of a similar nature took place in many cities around the world last weekend, it was only in, Rome, Italy that the situation was hijacked, as Time correspondent in Rome Stephan Farris put it, and turned very nasty, as you will see in this video:
Black Black Gang
A faction labelled as the ‘Black Block‘ caused around €5 million worth of damage to Rome. The sinister Black Block group appeared to have been well trained and the attacks gave the impression they had been planned in advance. Despite indications that the battle had been premeditated, Italy’s police forces were caught off guard and found it impossible to contain the violence and prevent the destruction.
Although the initial impression was that the Occupy movement protesters had sparked the violence, they were as shocked as the rest of Rome by the violent nature of the attacks with some intervening in an attempt to put an end to the acts of wanton destruction, as did Rome’s residents.
Black Block Trained in Greece?
Newspaper reports state that the members of this gang of rioters were trained in Greece. Via Twitter I asked a Greek contact of mine, Yannis Koutsomitis, whether he had heard anything about this. He tweeted back that he had heard some rumours and added that those he believed those behind the Black Block were a mixture of the extreme left and anarchists. In Italy it has been stated that the extreme right was involved in the Rome incidents too. Members of extremist football fan groups, known as Ultras in Italy, were also reported to have been arrested in connection with the incidents in Rome.
It is unclear just what the objectives the ‘Black Block’ are, if indeed there are any, aside from causing trouble. Many of those who attacked buildings and burned cars were caught on film and on the city’s security cameras. Arrests have been taking place around Italy today, not that identifying the rioters will be easy seeing as many wore balaclavas and motorcycle helmets.
On the political front, what happened in Rome has been roundly condemned by all sides, even if Bank of Italy governor Mario Draghi initially commented that the protest was understandable. Draghi was not, one suspects, condoning the violence which occurred. Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stated that those responsible for the rioting and destruction in Rome would be punished.
Calls for Italy’s Police to be Given Greater Powers
Today, Italian MP Antionio Di Pietro called for the reintroduction of the so-called 1975 Legge Reale – Reale Law – which would give Italy’s police extended powers to deal with future outbreaks of violence. Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni seconded Di Pietro’s opinion that such laws should be reintroduced.
A contemporary version of Legge Reale powers may include granting the police the right to use their firearms in the event that levels of violence become impossible to control using normal means. Additionally, those suspected of either organising or participating in riots could be held for around four days without charge.
Italy on Alert
Italy is on alert for further outbreaks of uncontrolled violence but there are some fears that a €2.5 billion cut in funding for Italy’s police may leave them without the means to curb further riots.
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