Riot police have dragged away some 350 squatter families from abandoned offices in Rome amid violent clashes which are the latest to come in a rising tide of forced evictions in Italy fuelled by the economic crisis.
Several people were injured on Wednesday as police used truncheons to break through a large group of protesters outside the building, where squatters had barricaded themselves in.
An AFP photographer saw between 100 and 150 officers then entering the building – a former state-owned insurance agency – and escorting the residents out, nine days after the occupation began.
The families were loaded into around 10 waiting police vans in the area south of the city centre, which was entirely closed off to traffic for the operation.
“They clubbed us wildly, it was brutal,” Cristiano Armati, a member of the Co-ordinamento association which had helped occupy the building, told AFP by telephone from hospital.
“It doesn’t end here though. The fight for housing rights will go on,” said Armati, who said he was being treated for a broken elbow and cuts to the head.
The number of evictions in the capital is on the rise as families struggle to pay rent amid record-high unemployment.
The council carried out 3,346 evictions in the first six months of 2013 – a 10-per cent increase from the first six months of 2012, according to the latest data.
A steady increase since 2008 “shows just how grave the impact of the economic crisis has been, dragging ever greater swaths of the population into the emergency housing phenomenon,” a council official told AFP.
The government last month launched a new housing plan that promised to double rent subsidies for low earners to 200 million euros ($A297.35 million) for 2014 and 2015, but it also cracked down on squatters’ rights.
Critics say the subsidies are not enough and insist the government should do more to free up empty properties.