A wave of anti-lockdown protests is sweeping across Europe as thousands of protesters took to the streets on Monday to urge governments to lift the new round of restrictions instituted following a resurgence of coronavirus infections.
Mass violence was reported in the Italian cities of Naples, Milan and Turin as protesters called on the so-called “yellow-red” center-left coalition government instituted strict lockdowns in one of the nations hardest hit by COVID-19. Italy saw a record breaking 21,268 new cases on Sunday, the highest figure since the onset of the pandemic.
Protesters also took to the streets of a dozen other cities in Italy.
Following the new wave of infections, the Italian government instituted lockdown restrictions that orders bars and restaurants to be closed by 6pm, and for gyms, cinemas, and swimming pools to be closed. As many as 80,000 pizzerias are facing closure due to the economic slump brought on by the lockdowns, according to HuffPost Italia.
Small business owners argue that the new wave of restrictions would drive their already hurting businesses to bankruptcy.
Daily Mail reports that several luxury stores were looted amid the demonstrations in central Turin as protesters took to the streets past curfew. Police responded with teargas and less-lethal munitions. The city’s mayor, Chiara Appendino, on Tuesday scolded rioters whom she says “polluted” an initially peaceful protest by business owners who opposed the lockdowns.
“These were actions that not only do not belong in any way to the reasons for the protest,” she said, scolding rioters for committing violence “on the backs of workers, traders and entrepreneurs who civilised their legitimate dissent last night.”
In Milan, where the virus first made landfall in Italy, protesters reportedly threw Molotov cocktails at the police. 28 people were arrested in the riots. A pair of Egyptian nationals were also arrested for looting.
Protests also erupted throughout Barcelona, the capitol of the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain. Protesters reportedly set fires on the street before the violence was eventually quelled by riot police. The violent demonstrations took place a day after Spain declared a second nationwide lockdown, which will last 15 days. According to the Daily Mail, the government plans to ask parliament for a six-month extension to the state of emergency.
The Spanish protests follow the implementation of a nationwide curfew amid warnings that Spanish hospitals were already in a “very critical situation” due to the rise in infections, per RTVE. As many as 40 percent of ICUs have been filled in some regions of Spain, including Madrid. Spain is the first country to see as many as a million coronavirus cases in Europe.
Local news reports suggest that those opposed to the lockdowns in Barcelona include a broad collective of different groups including Catalan separatists, leftists, and COVID-19 skeptics.