Anti-austerity rally in Rome turns violent as a small band of rioters clash with police
At least 100 protesters in hoods and motorcycle helmets attacked the Italian economy ministry in Rome on Saturday after a march against austerity turned violent.
Protesters with masks over their faces hurled flares, bottles and thunder flashes at a line of police guarding the entrance to the government building.
They beat the plastic shields of the police with sticks and poles. Police then charged the crowds, scattering them down side streets where they set fire to rubbish bins.
“This is just the start,” said one masked young man.
A crowd of tens of thousands marched through central Rome in what started as a peaceful protest. Organisers said 70,000 people were taking part, while police put the number at around 50,000.
It was then hijacked by gangs of extremists who had come prepared for trouble. Police had seized potential weapons including chains, helmets, clubs and cobblestones and detained 14 people ahead of the protest.
The majority of the crowd were protesting peacefully about low wages, austerity measures, unemployment and environmental issues.
Some of the protesters had camped out overnight on Piazza San Giovanni square following a trade union demonstration and transport strike on Friday.
“We are protesting a one-way austerity that is bringing the country to its knees,” said Piero Bernocchi from Italy‘s Cobas trade union group.
“And it hasn’t achieved what it was meant to by bringing down debt,” he said, adding: “Meanwhile politicians continue with their privileges.”
Italy is struggling to shake off a two-year recession that has pushed unemployment to record levels, shut down thousands of businesses and forced many young Italians to leave the country.