Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Thousands in Paris and Rome protest austerity measures

A demonstration in Rome turns violent when protesters throw rocks and firecrackers at police

Anti-austerity protests took over parts of Paris and Rome on Saturday, with one demonstration in Rome spurring violence when protesters threw rocks, eggs and firecrackers at police, with at least one person injured.

Tens of thousands of people took part in protests in central Paris and Rome, organized by hard-left parties opposed to government economic reform plans and austerity measures.

Police in Rome armed with batons charged members of a large splinter group — many wearing masks and helmets — and also used tear gas to push back the crowd, with protesters fighting back with rocks and firecrackers. One man lost a hand when a firecracker exploded before he could throw it.

There were dozens of lighter injuries among police and protesters, and at least six arrests, police said.

The protest was organized as a challenge to high housing costs and joblessness as a result of Italy's long economic slowdown. The procession made its way peacefully through central Rome until the more violent element wearing helmets started throwing objects at police near the Labor Ministry.

In Paris, protesters marched from the Place de la Republique, some carrying banners attacking President Francois Hollande with slogans such as "Hollande, that's enough," and "When you are leftist you support employees."

French police said that about 25,000 joined the protest, which follow new Prime Minister Manuel Valls' unveiling of a plan Tuesday to make tax and spending cuts, vowing to bring down France's public deficit and following on the heels of pro-business reforms announced earlier this year by Hollande.

"This is the first demonstration of the left-wing opposition against the government," Olivie Besancenot, spokesman of the New Anti-Capitalism Party, told i-Tele TV channel.

The turnout, however, was well short of protests in Paris last year in opposition to same-sex marriage that drew hundreds of thousands. The French Communist Party, on its Twitter account, estimated Saturday's turnout at 100,000.

The protest in Rome was smaller, drawing several thousand, according to witnesses. They called for more affordable housing and took aim at 39-year-old Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his plans to reform labor rules to make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees.

"The problem with the Renzi government is that since it took power, even though he is supposedly of the left, his policies are of the right," said Federico Bicerni, a 23-year-old from Modena with a temporary work contract who is also the youth head of the Italian Marxist Leninist Party.

"They are reducing democracy. Renzi's labor reforms will worsen the situation for workers without job security, hitting young people when they are already struggling. The rage of the people in the squares today is justified," he said.

Renzi, who took power in February, is seeking to make sweeping reforms, including tax cuts, to revive Italy's ailing economy where youth unemployment has risen to well over 40 percent.

Wire services

Related News

France, Italy

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


France, Italy

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter