Italian student protesters have been out in force in the capital, Rome, and other cities as MPs debate a bill on education reform.
Rome was brought to a virtual standstill by the Block Everything Day ahead of a vote on spending cuts and time limits on research.
Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini has defended the reform, which is purported to save billions of Euros over the next two years, in order to create a more merit-based system.
Students blocked roads and central squares in Rome, and hundreds surrounded the Chamber of Deputies as riot police maintained a tight cordon. Cars were unable to circulate around the city as other students blocked roads and major throughways.
Traffic was disrupted in other major cities, from Turin to Palermo, while students blocked the tracks at railway stations in Milan, Pisa and Venice.
In Naples, protesters took advantage of the rubbish collection crisis to throw the debris and rubbish bags lining the streets at the doors of the regional government office.
The national day of action is the latest in a series of events coordinated by the Italian Trade Union Confederation (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, CGIL) who also led workers, pensioners, and university students onto the streets of Rome on Saturday 27 November to protest against bleak job prospects and demand more rights, democracy for workers and a different way to tackle the crisis.
More than 2,100 buses and 13 chartered trains from across Italy brought the protesters to Rome over the weekend. They joined many other demonstrators already in Rome marching through the capital waving flags and banners, chanting and claiming job as a right, under the slogan “The Future is for young and employment.”
Several representatives of trade unions spoke at the national demonstration where the newly elected CGIL General Secretary, Susanna Camusso, addressed the public from the crowded Square of San Giovanni in Rome. She spoke of the difficult situation of female and male workers, of young, precarious and immigrant workers, and commented on the complex crisis of the Italian government that is affecting the country.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's faltering government faces two confidence votes next month in the lower and upper houses of parliament on 14 December.
The prime minister says he is optimistic about winning the votes but he has been beset by defections from his coalition and allegations about his behavior, including allegations of improper conduct in the case of a teenage nightclub dancer who was released from a police cell following his intervention.
“After two years of endless crisis and rising unemployment, everyone can see that this country lacks a project for the future,” said Susanna Camusso, “we ask for a radical change in the political agenda of this country that focus on the future of young people and work.”