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Restaurant owners clash with police in Rome COVID-19 lockdown protest

Rome: Restaurant owners and others angry at having their businesses shut for weeks due to pandemic lockdown measures have clashed with police during a protest outside Parliament in Rome.

One officer was injured in the scuffling on Tuesday, local time, the Italian news agency LaPresse said.

Demonstrators gathered outside parliament during a protest in Rome on Tuesday.

Demonstrators gathered outside parliament during a protest in Rome on Tuesday.Credit:AP

Many in the crowd of a few hundred protesters lowered their protective masks to shout “Work!” and “Freedom!” Some hurled smoke flares or other objects.

Dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and cafes are currently banned through at least April. Only takeaway or delivery services are permitted.

Officers charged the protesters after they tried to breach a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined the business owners in the protest, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

Among the demonstrators was Hermes Ferrari, owner of a restaurant in Modena, a city in northern Italy. He boasted that he has defied authorities for months in opening his establishment to diners in breach of government decrees. Even as the fines piled up, “I was able to pay my workers,” Ferrari said, by keeping the business open.

Demonstrators scuffle with police during the protest in Rome.

Demonstrators scuffle with police during the protest in Rome.Credit:AP

Ferrari shouted to fellow restaurant owners at the protest to follow his lead. “You have to open because nobody can tell you to close,” he yelled.

Italy’s current and previous governments have allocated millions of euros in aid to businesses particularly hard-hit by pandemic restrictions.

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