Restaurant owners clash with police in Rome lockdown protest

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Demonstrators scuffle with Italian Policemen during a protest by Restaurant and shop owners outside the Lower Chamber in Rome, Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Demonstrators demanded to reopen their business and protested against restrictive measures of the Italian Government to cope with the surge of COVID-19 cases. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ROME – Italian restaurant owners and others angry at having their businesses shut for weeks due to a virus lockdown clashed with police Tuesday during a protest outside Parliament in Rome, while in the south, hundreds of demonstrators blocked a major highway.

One officer was injured in the scuffling, the Italian news agency LaPresse said. RAI state TV said seven protesters were detained by police.

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

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

Officers charged some protesters after they tried to breach a police cordon. Members of a far-right political group joined the business owners at 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.

Ferrari shouted to fellow restaurant owners at the protest to follow his lead.