Purple protests on streets of Rome

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A political protest movement born on the internet is hoping that it will play a decisive role in the regional elections in Italy. And its aim couldn't be clearer. The Purple People movement wants to bring down Silvio Berlusconi.

The movement has no leader, and no one really knows how it began, except that it started on Facebook and grew there and on Twitter; it now musters more than 257,000 online fans. Nor does it have a headquarters, beyond a shabby caravan parked in the middle of Rome's political district, with a communications hub that consists of precisely one laptop.

But despite their humble origins and trappings, the Purple People have become a force to be reckoned with. Their recent rallies have seen dissatisfied members of the public take to the streets of Rome – dressed in purple, a colour chosen because, depending on which member of the leaderless group you believe, "it is the colour of the awakening of our consciences," or "because no other political party uses it".

In December, it was "No-B Day", and the protests drew tens of thousands. This month, similar numbers travelled to Rome, brandishing banners that read "Enough".

Purple People members say they are not politically aligned. And many claim to have little interest in politics other than an overwhelming desire to get Silvio Berlusconi out of office.

"We want to be a movement outside of political parties, free of any political allegiance or symbol," the purple-clad, flag-waving Fabio La Falce, a protester at the 13 March demonstration, told the Associated Press.

Members frequently say they feel the need to protest against the huge influence the Prime Minister has over the country's television and media. They say they are outraged by Mr Berlusconi's increasingly venomous attacks on the county's judges.

It is not yet clear what the electoral impact will be, since the party has no plan to field candidates. Politics professor, James Walston of the American University of Rome, said the movement wanted "to act as a stimulus to the regular parties", instead. If it does, Mr Berlusconi may really have something to worry about.

257,000

Reported online fans of the Purple People movement

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