Protests were anticipated across Italy on Friday as the country’s new green pass rule for workers came into effect.
The government hopes the measures, which are the strictest anti-Covid restrictions yet enacted by a Western democracy, will boost vaccination coverage and keep infection rates down.
The green pass shows the holder is vaccinated against, recovered from, or has recently tested negative for the coronavirus.
While workers can opt to get tested instead of receiving the vaccine, from Friday those who wish to remain unvaccinated must pay for a test every two to three days.
Rapid antigen tests are capped at €15 in certain pharmacies participating in a government scheme to keep prices down for workers, though may cost more at non-participating pharmacies.
Those who fail to produce a green pass cannot be fired, but they could be fined up to €1,500 and suspended without pay.
The requirement has already been in place for school and university employees and care home workers since September, and the pass has been required to enter most leisure, cultural and entertainment venues in the country since August.
A recent survey of 6,000 people suggested that just over half of Italians are in favour of the new green pass requirement for workers – indicating the country is deeply divided on the issue. An estimated 2.5 million of the country’s 23 million workers are unvaccinated.
A protest in Rome on Saturday against the law attracted 10,000 people and descended into violence after members of a neo-fascist group ransacked buildings and clashed with the police, leaving 38 officers injured.
The capital is bracing itself for more violence this weekend, with the anti-pass movement planning further protests and unions preparing for a big anti-fascist rally in Rome.
Here’s how workers across the country are responding to the requirement.
This is a developing story.
All eyes were on the city of Trieste on Friday, where dock workers had previously threatened to block all activities in their port, a major hub in the northeast, despite having been offered free tests.
As of Friday morning, at least five thousand demonstrators had gathered at Gate 4 of the port, but no blockade was in place and the protesters were allowing their co-workers to pass through, reports the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.
“The port of Trieste is functioning: obviously in some areas there will be difficulties and reduced worker numbers, but it’s functioning,” the president of the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia (where Trieste is based), Massimiliano Fedriga, told SkyTG24.
“I asked to keep the temperature low by avoiding frontal clashes in order to avoid damaging the country’s economy, since damaging the activity of the port of Trieste means damaging a large number of companies working in related activities,” Fedriga said.
The demonstration’s organisers have reportedly turned away protestors from the neofascist Forza Nuova and Casapound organisations, thought to be among those behind violence at protests in Rome last weekend.
Dock workers in the northwestern city of Genoa had blockaded the port’s international San Benigno gate and ferry terminal as of late Friday morning, Italian media reports.
The protesters were allowing people to pass through but had blocked the passage of goods, causing a queue of trucks to start forming outside the dock’s entrance.
Due to the limited number of ships arriving, the port’s activity has not yet been significantly disrupted, but tensions are reported to be rising.
Just after Friday midday a group of 50 demonstrators blocked the access ramp to the ‘Sopraelevata’ expressway that connects the west of Genoa to the city centre.
More than two thousand people were reported to be on the march in Bologna as of Friday midday.
The crowd gathered in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore with the intention of heading towards the headquarters of the Emilia-Romagna regional authorities in Viale Aldo Moro.
Protesters displayed the Italian national flag and carried placards saying “we are free” and “the Green pass discriminates”.
Anti-green pass protests in Milan were sparsely attended on Friday, according to news reports.
Approximately 80 demonstrators gathered at the Arco della Pace in Milan, where the organisers played music and led chants of “resistance, resistance”.
Around 30 demonstrators are reported to have gathered outside the DHL depot in Milan to block the departure of trucks. The workers are demanding that DHL foot the bill for their green pass tests.
Protests in Rome have so far been similarly low-key, with just a few dozen demonstrators taking to the streets.
The protestors reportedly tried to block traffic in Via Labicana near the city centre, but were stopped by police and redirected to Piazza di Porta Maggiore.
Larger demonstrations are anticipated later in the day, including a sit in at Circo Massimo, an ancient Roman chariot racing track that today serves as a small park and outdoor performance venue.
Approximately 400 demonstrators were gathered in a peaceful sit in at Florence’s Piazza Santa Maria Novella on Friday, reports the news daily Repubblica.
Chants of ‘Trieste, Trieste’ were heard as the protesters expressed solidarity with the dock workers demonstrating in the northeast.
A large number of the protesters are students, carrying signs saying ‘Freedom’.
‘The only pass is the Constitution’, read one banner.
Another 400 people were gathered to protest in Turin’s Piazza Castello on Friday, reports La Stampa.
The initiative was reportedly led in part by a group called Fronte del dissenso, or Dissent Front.
Representatives of FISI, the Italian Federation of Trade Unions, which previously declared it would participate in a general strike against the rules, were also in attendace.
Speaking at the event was Ciro Silvestri, one of FISI’s national secretaries, who declared the green pass to be ‘illegal’.
“We defend freedom of choice. Work comes first,” Silvestri is reported to have said.
Things were quiet at Venice’s port on Friday, with all but one of the dock’s 180 workers showing up to work with the green pass, reports the national broadcaster Rai.
“It’s a normal day,” Mauro Piazza, president of the Port Workers of Venice association, told the news agency Ansa.
“With us there are no strikes or blockades at the gates”.
On Friday morning approximately 250 protesters gathered in Venice’s Campo San Geremia square, in a demonstration led by the group ‘Students against the Green pass’.
Campania and Puglia
No disruption has been reported in the major cities of the southern regions of Campania and Puglia, where port activity continues uninterrupted, reports Il Fatto Quotidiano.
Naples and Salerno in Campania and in the five Pugliese port cities of Bari, Brindisi, Monopoli, Manfredonia and Barletta saw a quiet Friday morning, with no protests from workers nor bottlenecks at staff entrances as a result of green pass checks.
An estimated 90% of Puglia’s workforce is reported to be vaccinated.