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Roman looters raid shops

"Leftwing looters raid shops"
Sophie Arie in Rome
The Guardian

A group of 200 leftwing protesters wearing balaclavas, carnival masks and bandanas over their faces, went on a "proletariat shopping spree" in a Rome hypermarket at the weekend, carrying off goods and handing them out.

They swarmed into the Panorama hypermarket on the outskirts of the Italian capital on Saturday shouting "free shopping for all".

After failing to negotiate a 70% discount with the supermarket's manager, the group barged loaded trolleys past cashiers and distributed the goods to a crowd outside.
Police chose not to intervene but later claimed to have identified 87 members of the group, who now face legal action.

The "proletariat shoppers", included a Communist town councillor, Nunzio d'Erme, and the leader of the Black Block, Luca Casarini, who led violent G8 anti-globalisation protests in Genova in 2001.

Other "proletariat shoppers" went on to raid a Feltrinelli bookshop in central Rome.

The sprees hark back to similar, more violent protests in the 70s. They were condemned as looters led by Italy's most extreme anarchist groups. The stunts coincided with a march by more than 10,000 workers complaining of soaring prices, insecure work contracts, cuts in state benefits and overspending on the Iraq war.

The cost of living has shot up in Italy since the arrival of the euro but incomes have remained the same, and the economy has stagnated.

Italy's leading Catholic charity, Caritas, warned last month of a risk of increasing social discontent as 7 million young and old "new poor" - 12% of the population - live below the breadline in the seventh richest industrial economy in the world.

Italy's economy was hard hit by the post-September 11 slump in tourism and by losing the trade battle with cheaper clothes, car, domestic appliances and food and wine producers - notably in China and Australia.

With unemployment at 8.4%, and more than 26% of under-25s unemployed, the charity said it was alarmed by the numbers turning to it for help.