Chalk, blackboard... teargas? Italy protests start at school
By Naomi O'Leary
ROME (Reuters) - At dawn before lessons could start last week, high school pupils at the Nomentano Science School in a northern suburb of Rome slipped chains around the gates and blocked the doors with chairs taken from classrooms.
Between the ragged European Union flag and Italian tricolour over the entry they hung a new banner: a white sheet spray painted with the word "Occupied".
With youth unemployment more than three times the national average and Prime Minister Mario Monti's austerity policies biting into education spending, high school and university students have moved to the front of anti-government protests.
As strikes swept Europe on Wednesday, teenagers armed with makeshift riot shields painted to look like the covers of famous books led a march of thousands through Rome. The demonstration ended in violent clashes, with riot police chasing protesters down the banks of the Tiber under clouds of teargas.
In a speech this week at Milan's Bocconi University, where he was an economics professor before becoming prime minister, Monti expressed sympathy, saying young people were paying for "serious errors accumulated over the past decades".
Nomentano is one of more than a dozen schools around Rome to be seized by students in a revolt against reforms and economic crisis cuts imposed by Monti's technocrat government.
Student Nicholas Giordano, 18, pointed to gaping holes in the school's outdoor paving and its broken roofs.
"There are toilets that haven't worked for months. When it rains, in some classrooms the water comes in," Giordano said. "We want to show the government that this is unacceptable." Continued...