Thousands march against austerity

NAPLES – Demonstrators gathered in Naples on Thursday to march in protest against the most recent meeting of the European Central Bank (ECB), taking place in the city.

The crowd, which was largely composed of young people, who have been hit particularly hard by the economic crisis, gathered to express their mounting frustration with the still staggeringly high unemployment rate in Italy and the scarcity of well paying job opportunities.

ECB meetings have consistently drawn large crowds of protestors during the economic crisis. For many it has come to symbolize the austerity measures imposed on the European Union's hardest hit countries, unemployment, and the perceived mishandling of the crisis.

The protestors' core demographic, the young and unemployed, or underemployed, were in no short supply. Although Italy’s overall unemployment rate recently fell from its 40 year high of 12.6 per cent to 12.3 per cent, the unemployment rate among those of 15-24 years of age rose to 44.2 per cent, the highest level since record keeping began in 1977.

ECB meeting protests in recent years, have often turned violent. Past protests in Greece, Spain, as well as Italy, have had a particular propensity for violence, likely due to the fact that these nations have been very hardly hit by the recession, in conjunction with the fact that they have all had very harsh austerity measures enacted upon them.

Protest organisers assured police, and local businesses that the demonstration would be a purely peaceful event, but many local store owners closed down regardless, fearing property destruction if the protests should turn violent. The police presence was also heavily increased in the area, in case the event should evolve from protest to riot, but these fears have so far not come to fruition.

"A giant climate of fear has been built up around this march," said a protestor named Mauro, from the Collettivo 081 association. "Over the last few days we have been forced to explain that the young people of this city are the ones who are protesting, the young people who want a future".