Italian interior minister calls violence against minors at pro-Palestinian demo ‘a defeat’

Italian interior minister calls violence against minors at pro-Palestinian demo 'a defeat' © Provided by The Canadian Press

MILAN (AP) — Italy’s interior minister acknowledged as a “defeat” the use of police batons against high school students demonstrating in the Tuscan city of Pisa last week, while warning lawmakers Thursday of growing violent tendencies among pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Italians have expressed outrage at police violence against two pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Pisa last Friday; the one in Pisa included high school students who are minors, at least 11 of whom suffered bruises when police responded with batons.

President Sergio Mattarella told the interior minister over the weekend that “the authority of law enforcement is not measured by truncheons but by its ability to ensure security while protecting, at the same time, the freedom to publicly express opinion. With kids, truncheons express failure.”

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told the lower house of parliament that in Pisa law enforcement reacted after demonstrators tried to beach a police barrier with “pushes, kicks, insults, spitting and attempts to remove the shields.” Seventeen demonstrators were injured, among them 11 minors, along with two police officers, he said.

“We all hope that public demonstrations take place peacefully and without incidents, and when it comes to physical contact with minors it is in any case a defeat,” the minister said, underlining the need for a transparent investigation.

Video of the incident taken by bystanders shows half a dozen officers in riot gear brandishing wooden batons striking demonstrators in a narrow alley leading to a piazza. The officer in charge of the mobilization has been transferred, Italian media reported.

The minister said both the Pisa and the Florence demonstrations were illegal, having failed to file official notice of the intent to gather at least three days in advance.

In Florence, at least 300 protesters chanting anti-Israel and anti-American slogans attempted to reach the U.S. Consulate, which had been the target of a firebomb attack on Feb. 2, the minister told lawmakers. At least five demonstrators were treated at hospitals, he said.

He noted a “climate of growing aggression toward law enforcement” in the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, with the apparent aim to provoke a police reaction. Incidents have been reported at 33 of the 1,076 demonstrations since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, he said.

Source: Colleen Barry, The Associated Press