Italian restaurant owners scream ‘Freedom!’ as they clash with police over lockdown rules


Italian restaurant owners and others angry at having their businesses shut for weeks due to a virus lockdown clashed with police on Tuesday during a protest outside Parliament in Rome.

Protests also took part in southern Italy, where demonstrators blocked a major highway. 

One officer was injured in the scuffling, the Italian news agency LaPresse said. At least seven protesters were detained by police, according to RAI state TV.

Many in the crowd of a few hundred protesters outside the Chamber of Deputies lowered their masks to shout ‘Work!’ and ‘Freedom!’. Some hurled smoke flares or other objects.

Several protesters said they would open from April 7, despite restrictions which should see them shut until May.  

 Italian restaurant owners and others angry at having their businesses shut for weeks due to a virus lockdown clashed with police Tuesday during a protest outside Parliament in Rome

Italy is currently experiencing a surge in infections, driven mainly by virus variants, and has seen daily new caseloads in the tens of thousands

Italy is currently experiencing a surge in infections, driven mainly by virus variants, and has seen daily new caseloads in the tens of thousands

Italy has seen hundreds of COVID-19 deaths a day now for months, sparking the return to lockdown over the Easter holiday weekend

Italy has seen hundreds of COVID-19 deaths a day now for months, sparking the return to lockdown over the Easter holiday weekend

One officer was injured in the clashes while at least seven protesters were detained by the police, local media reported

One officer was injured in the clashes while at least seven protesters were detained by the police, local media reported

Many in the crowd of a few hundred protesters outside the Chamber of Deputies lowered their masks to shout 'Work!' and 'Freedom!'. Some hurled smoke flares or other objects

Many in the crowd of a few hundred protesters outside the Chamber of Deputies lowered their masks to shout ‘Work!’ and ‘Freedom!’. Some hurled smoke flares or other objects

Dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and cafes is currently banned through at least April. Only takeout or delivery services are permitted.

Officers charged some protesters after they tried to breach a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined the business owners at the protest, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

Among the demonstrators was Hermes Ferrari, owner of a restaurant in Modena, a city in northern Italy. 

He boasted that he has defied authorities for months in opening his establishment to diners in breach of government decrees.

Even as the fines piled up ‘I was able to pay my workers,’ Ferrari said, by keeping the business open.

Ferrari shouted to fellow restaurant owners at the protest to follow his lead.

‘You have to open because nobody can tell you to close,’ he yelled.

Dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and cafes is currently banned through at least April. Only takeout or delivery services are permitted, but restaurant owners say they want to open full time

Dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and cafes is currently banned through at least April. Only takeout or delivery services are permitted, but restaurant owners say they want to open full time

Officers charged some protesters after they tried to breach a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined the business owners at the protest, according to the Italian news agency ANSA

Officers charged some protesters after they tried to breach a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined the business owners at the protest, according to the Italian news agency ANSA

Restaurant and small business owners at the protest said lifting restrictions was 'a matter of survival' for them

Restaurant and small business owners at the protest said lifting restrictions was ‘a matter of survival’ for them

Italy’s current and previous governments have allocated millions of euros in aid to categories particularly hard-hit by pandemic restrictions.

The business owners insist they need to re-open permanently. 

Restaurants and cafes in regions with lower incidence of cases and less critically impacted hospital ICUs – so-called yellow zones – have been allowed at times to have sit-down dining and drinking during the day.

But a current surge in infections, driven mainly by virus variants, has seen daily new caseloads in the tens of thousands and hundreds of COVID-19 deaths a day now for months. 

Italy's current and previous governments have allocated millions of euros in aid to categories particularly hard-hit by pandemic restrictions, but the business owners insist they need to re-open permanently

Italy’s current and previous governments have allocated millions of euros in aid to categories particularly hard-hit by pandemic restrictions, but the business owners insist they need to re-open permanently

Restaurants and cafes in regions with lower incidence of cases and less critically impacted hospital ICUs - so-called yellow zones - had been allowed at times to have sit-down dining and drinking during the day

Restaurants and cafes in regions with lower incidence of cases and less critically impacted hospital ICUs – so-called yellow zones – had been allowed at times to have sit-down dining and drinking during the day

However, a current surge in infections, driven mainly by virus variants, has seen daily new caseloads in the tens of thousands, sparking authorities to temporarily eliminate yellow zones for the rest of April

However, a current surge in infections, driven mainly by virus variants, has seen daily new caseloads in the tens of thousands, sparking authorities to temporarily eliminate yellow zones for the rest of April

Protesters faced off with anti-riot policemen at a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions and the current health minister in Piazza Montecitorio

Protesters faced off with anti-riot policemen at a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions and the current health minister in Piazza Montecitorio

That prompted the Italian government to temporarily eliminate the yellow zone designation from before the Easter holidays through the rest of April.

Expressing solidarity with the injured police officer, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Carlo Sibilia said ‘violence won’t be tolerated.’

Still, Sibilia, from the populist 5-Star Movement, called on the government, besides concentrating on the vaccine roll out, to provide ‘immediately, new compensatory funds for economic activities closed or penalized by the recent restrictions.’

Sibilia pressed for government guarantees of loans, a moratorium on mortgage payments, a stop to evictions, and compensation for income lost due to COVID-19 measures.

Hours earlier, near the southern city of Caserta, another protest blocked traffic on the A1 Highway. 

Among the hundreds of demonstrators were those who work in outdoor markets and owners of gyms and restaurants, the Italian news agency LaPresse said. Gyms have also been closed for months.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese decried as unacceptable protests that turn violent or that inconvenience citizens.

Italy has seen hundreds of COVID-19 deaths a day now for months forcing the country to return to a full lockdown. Yellow zones, where businesses are able to partially open, will not return until at least the beginning of May

Sibilia, from the populist 5-Star Movement, has pressed for government guarantees of loans, a moratorium on mortgage payments, a stop to evictions, and compensation for income lost due to COVID-19 measures

Sibilia, from the populist 5-Star Movement, has pressed for government guarantees of loans, a moratorium on mortgage payments, a stop to evictions, and compensation for income lost due to COVID-19 measures

Among the hundreds of demonstrators were those who work in outdoor markets and owners of gyms and restaurants

Among the hundreds of demonstrators were those who work in outdoor markets and owners of gyms and restaurants

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese decried as unacceptable protests that turn violent or that inconvenience citizens

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese decried as unacceptable protests that turn violent or that inconvenience citizens

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