Students clash with police in Rome protest
Italian students skirmished with police outside the Senate building in Rome yesterday during protests against the government’s proposed reform of the university system and budget cuts.
A handful of students managed to breach the security barriers surrounding the Senate, but were pushed back by police officers. Others shouted slogans and threw eggs and smoke flares against the door of the upper chamber.
Demonstrators also attempted to break through police lines during a rally in front of the lower house of Parliament, where the reforms proposed by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini were being discussed ahead of a vote to be taken today. Protesters waving banners reading “No to Cuts!” and “Give us Back our Future!” scuffled with police at another student rally in the centre of Rome. A few students suffered minor injuries.
Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the opposition Democratic Party (PD), showed his support by joining students who have been occupying the roof of the architecture faculty in Piazza Borghese in Rome.
“Gelmini’s project is a disaster. It demolishes the university bit by bit,” he said.
Students are outraged over cuts of around nine billion euros and 130,000 jobs in the education system that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government has engaged to carry out by 2013.
The reform will merge several smaller higher education establishments and bring external managers into university boards.
Critics say it is aimed simply at cutting costs. Ms Gelmini dismissed the protests, saying: “Some students are... manipulated by left-wing politicians, who decided today to act out a comedy on the roofs of the university.”
On November 17 thousands of students took to the streets in more than 100 marches through Italian cities including Milan, Rome, Florence and Palermo, to protest the reform and cuts.