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Protesters hit Italian streets a 2nd day

Nov. 25, 2010 at 6:49 PM   |   Comments

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ROME, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- Students and teachers opposed to government reforms took to the streets for a second day Thursday, staging protests in cities across Italy, authorities said.

"People like me will no longer exist," Euronews quoted one demonstrator as saying. "Researchers with a permanent contract will disappear, replaced by people hired on short-term contracts. Job precariousness will continue."

The Daily Telegraph reported students blocked entrance to the Colosseum in Rome and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and rallied in cities across the country in opposition to spending cuts planned by the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The British newspaper said demonstrators and police clashed in Milan, Florence and Bologna. In Turin and Palermo, participants blocked traffic and set off smoke bombs, while students occupied university buildings in Naples, Ancona and Cagliari.

Italian Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini defended the reform package, saying it would make universities more meritocratic and efficient.

The demonstrations come ahead of confidence votes in parliament to be held Dec. 14 that could lead to early elections.

Thursday's protests followed one in Rome Wednesday during which more than 2,000 students stormed the Italian Senate, protesting the proposed education cuts and calling on the education minister to resign.

They forced their way through the entrance door to the Italian Parliament's upper house Wednesday and threw tear gas, eggs and stones at the windows, state-owned RAI, Radiotelevisione Italiana, reported.

Police used batons to stop the students from reaching the lower house, the independent news agency ANSA reported.

Outside, the students set off smoke bombs and threw eggs at the building.

Eight police officers and several students were injured, ANSA said. At least two students were arrested and 27 were referred to criminal prosecutors, the news agency said.

During the protest, some students chanted "resign, resign," a call ANSA said was directed at Gelmini.

"The government is strangling us but we will set ourselves free from its tyranny," some students with ropes around their necks shouted.

Gelmini contends the cuts are needed to rein in public spending and reduce Italy's deficit.

"These protesters are in danger of defending the baronies, privileges and the status quo," she said.

The violence followed a one-day, nationwide student strike marred by vandalism in some cities last week. Students also demonstrated against the education cuts in major Italian cities Oct. 8.

The protest Wednesday coincided with protests across Britain in which thousands of students walked out of classes and marched to protest the government's plans to cut education spending and steeply increase university tuition. It was the second such protest in Britain this month.

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