Rome Restaurants and Other Small Businesses Protest COVID-19 Restrictions

Rome restaurateurs and other small-business owners clashed Monday with police for the second week in a row, demanding to be allowed to open after being shut down for much of the past year. Italy has been one of the hardest-hit nations over the course of the pandemic, with more than 114,000 deaths from COVID-19. The government has closed many of its restaurants, along with other stores and markets, for varying periods for much of the past year. They had been allowed to reopen at various times, only to be told to shut again when the virus surged. But now they want to reopen for good, and at least 200 people from around Italy joined Monday’s protest in a plaza close to Montecitorio Palace, the lower house of Parliament. Many carried signs or shouted “Work!” and “Freedom!” as they faced down police in riot gear.  A demonstrator gestures as she speaks to a police officer during a protest of restaurant and small-business owners who call for their businesses to be allowed to reopen amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Rome, Italy, April 12, 2021.Scuffles broke out between police and protesters after a small group of demonstrators attempted to break through police barricades. The restrictions prohibit dining and drinking at restaurants, bars and cafes through at least April in most regions, with only takeout or delivery services permitted. The government has allocated millions in aid to business sectors particularly hit hard by pandemic restrictions. While initial lockdowns to control the virus were widely accepted, business owners took to the streets after learning about the current shutdown extension.