Restaurant owners clash with police in Rome lockdown protest

ROME (AP) – Italian restaurateurs and others angry with their businesses shutting down for weeks due to virus lockdown with police on Tuesday during a protest outside Parliament in Rome, while in the south, hundreds of protesters blocked a main highway.

An officer was injured in the scuffle, Italian news agency LaPresse said. State television RAI said seven protesters were arrested by police.

Many in the crowd of a few hundred demonstrators in front of the Chamber of Deputies lowered their masks to shout “Work!” and “Freedom!” Some launched flares or other objects.

Eating and drinking in restaurants, bars and cafes is currently banned at least until April. Only take-out or delivery services are permitted.

Police have accused some protesters after trying to cross a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined business leaders at the protest, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

Among the protesters was Hermès Ferrari, owner of a restaurant in Modena, a city in northern Italy. He bragged about defying the authorities for months by opening his establishment to diners in violation of government decrees.

Even as the fines piled up, “I was able to pay my workers,” Ferrari said, keeping the company open.

During the demonstration, Ferrari shouted to other restaurateurs to follow his example.

“You have to open because nobody can tell you to close,” he shouted.

Current and previous Italian governments have allocated millions of euros in aid to categories particularly affected by the pandemic restrictions.

Business owners insist they must reopen for good. Restaurants and cafes in areas with lower incidence of cases and less affected hospital intensive care units – so-called yellow areas – have sometimes been allowed to have sit-down meals and sit back. drink before evening.

But a current surge in infections, mostly due to virus variants, has resulted in new daily cases of tens of thousands and hundreds of COVID-19 deaths per day for months. This prompted the Italian government to temporarily remove the yellow zone designation before the Easter holidays until the rest of April.

Expressing solidarity with the injured policeman, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Carlo Sibilia said “violence will not be tolerated”.

Yet Sibilia, of the 5-star populist movement, called on the government, in addition to focusing on the deployment of the vaccine, to provide “immediately, new compensation funds for economic activities closed or penalized by the recent restrictions”.

Sibilia lobbied for the government to guarantee loans, a moratorium on mortgage payments, stop evictions and compensation for income lost due to COVID-19 measures.

A few hours earlier, near the southern town of Caserta, another demonstration blocked traffic on the A1 motorway. Among the hundreds of protesters were those working in open-air markets and owners of gyms and restaurants, Italian news agency LaPresse said. Gyms have been closed for months.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese denounced it as unacceptable demonstrations that turn violent or disturb citizens.

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AP reporter Gordon Walker in Rome contributed to this report.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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