Social Justice Protest in Italy Takes an anti-Semitic Turn

Italian protest spokesman says country is enslaved by Jewish bankers.

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Social justice protest in Italy took an anti-Semitic turn Friday, when the spokesman of the movement leading the protest said Italy was a slave to Jewish bankers in a media interview.

The Forconi, Italian for Pitchfork, movement spokesman Andrea Zunino made his comment to the Italian daily La Repubblica.

The head of Italy's Jewish community Renzo Gattegna responded to Zunino's comments by calling them delusions fed by violent and malicious anti-Semitic stereotypes that do harm not only to the memory of millions who died in agony in the name of Nazi ideology but also to the democratic values of the Italian people he pretends to represent in the streets and squares.

Italy experienced a wave of protests in the past week in its largest cities - from Palermo in the south to Turin in the north. In several cities, protesters clashed with the police. In Ventimiglia, a city near France, protesters blocked the highways leading to the border.

A variety of groups have coalesced around the protest, which have drawn farmers, drivers, merchants, students, the unemployed, as well as members of the radical left, marching alongside members of neo-Nazis movements.

Opposition figures seeking to make political capital out of the protests have also joined. One of the more prominent of these figures is Matteo Salvini, the new leader of the separatist, anti-European Northern League. Salvini has called on protesters to march on Rome, a phrase that refers to dictator Benito Mussolini's takeover of power in 1922.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano warned of a spiral of rebellion against state and European institutions. "There is a violent face [to the movement] that has violated the law, he said. We understand the social unease, but we are determined to defend citizens' freedom and safety.

At the time of this report, 14 police officers had been injured in demonstrations, five protesters had been arrested and 55 indictments issued.

The Pitchfork movement was founded two years ago and has since adopted the name December 9, for the date the recent protests begin. The movement has promised to continue the struggle until it achieves its goals, which include bringing down the government, leaving the euro bloc and cutting taxes.

Students clash with police during a protest in Rome, ItalyCredit: AP

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