Police beatings of pro-Palestinian schoolchildren spark outrage in Italy

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 11:28 AM

ROME (Reuters) – Footage of police beating pro-Palestinian students drew broad condemnation in Italy on Friday, with the opposition calling for the interior minister to address parliament over the episode.

Student marches were blocked by police in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Pisa, with images of officers vigorously using their truncheons on school-age protesters in Pisa triggering outrage on social media and from politicians.

The videos showed the students, who appeared to be protesting peacefully, retreating under a hail of blows from law enforcers wearing helmets and full riot gear.

“Is this how you beat your own children,” one young woman is heard shouting.

The Pisa police were not immediately available for comment.

Elly Schlein, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, posted on Facebook a video of the “unacceptable” scenes of “students trapped in an alleyway, charged and beaten by the police”.

She said Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government, which came to office in 2022 promising to crack down on illegal immigration and promote law and order, was creating a “climate of repression” in the country.

There was no immediate comment on the police conduct from the government.

Enzo Letizia, head of ANFP, a police trade union, said student protests were often infiltrated by “expert instigators” and judgments should not be made until an inquiry had been held into the incidents.

Teachers at Pisa’s Russoli high school, which is close to the street where the march took place and attended by some of the students involved, said they were “stunned” by the treatment of the protesters, most of whom were minors.

“We found boys and girls from our classes trembling and shocked … from the beatings they received,” the teachers said in a statement, demanding that someone be held responsible for the “shameful day”.

Former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, leader of the left-leaning 5-Star Movement, said the images were “worrying” and “not worthy of our country”.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones, additional reporting by Alessandro Parodi, editing by Alex Richardson)