Travel

A Left-Wing May Day Protest in Milan Turned Violent

An anti-corruption demonstration transformed into a riot after some protesters smashed shop windows and the police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

by Stefano Santangelo, words by Leonardo Bianchi
May 4 2015, 4:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

Clashes broke out between police and anti-Expo 2015 demonstrators in the northern Italian city of Milan, on May 1. Expo—a six-month-long food-themed world fair—has come under fire from protesters, who are angered by a corruption scandal involving senior government and Expo officials. When it secured the rights to host the Expo seven years ago, the Italian government set aside €1.3 billion ($1.45 billion) for that purpose. Now many fear the investment will go directly into the pockets of the corporations involved in the fair, instead of benefiting their recession struck country.

Friday's "No-Expo" march, which was organized to coincide with the opening of the fair, was the culmination of a mobilization that has been ongoing for several years. At around 3 PM, No-Expo committees, leftists, trade unions, anarchists, students and animal-rights activists gathered in central Milan under a banner that read: "No Expo, Eat the Rich." As media reports had correctly predicted in the run up to the event, it didn't take long for tensions to reach boiling point.

Not long after 5 PM, clashes erupted between several hundred protesters and the police. The hooded protesters split off from a largely peaceful protest and began smashing shop and bank windows, as well as torching cars. The police responded with heavy rounds of tear gas and deployed water canons in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

So far there have been five confirmed arrests, while authorities have said they will be taking necessary action to deal with those who took part in the riots.

Expo organizers are speculating that the fair will draw roughly 20 million visitors over the next six months, as well as a €10 billion ($11.2 billion) jolt to Italy's economy.