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Italian farmers, truck drivers' protest disrupts transport, clashes with police

ROME, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Tension was high in Italy on Monday, as groups of farmers, truck drivers, and other anti-government demonstrators staged a nationwide protest, causing major transport disruption in the north of the country.

Thousands of demonstrators joined the strike proclaimed by the so-called "Pitchforks Movement" against austerity measures implemented during the economic crisis, the rise in fuel prices and taxes, and the tough living conditions of labor workers and young people.

The worst clashes erupted in the northern city of Turin, where at least 500 protesters launched rocks, bottles and paper bombs in the central Piazza Castello, trying to storm the Piedmont regional government's building and skirmishing with security forces. Police reacted by launching tear gas.

Turin's two railway stations of Porta Nuova and Porta Susa were also occupied for a few hours, causing traffic disruptions on the main train connection routes. At least 14 policemen were injured and 2 journalists were attacked, according to local media.

Minor troubles occurred in the northwest city of Genoa, and in the regions of Veneto, Sardinia and Sicily, where protesters mainly halted traffic at highways and road junctions. Branches of the national tax collection agency Equitalia were also targeted.

"We say 'enough' to the state, the government, the unions. Farmers are starving. That's why we are on the streets. Our protest has united farmers, street merchants, truck drivers and small entrepreneurs throughout the country," Giorgio Bissoli, leader of the local protest group in the northeast Veneto region, explained to local media.

The demonstrators' anger was mainly directed against the government, which they accused of doing nothing to help small entrepreneurs, and citizens in general, in overcoming the crisis.

Italy's economy, the third largest of the eurozone, has gone through the longest recession since the Second World War. Tackling the crisis has required Italian governments to implement painful cuts in social spending, an increase in taxes and other austerity measures in the last two years.

The Pitchforks Movement was founded by farmers and truck drivers two years ago in Sicily. They staged a first big protest in January 2012, blocking traffic and goods shipment for days and causing stock shortages across the country.

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