Protesters clash with Guardia di Finanza during a protest
in front of the Ministry of Finance building in downtown
Rome. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Demonstrators clashed with Italian police as tens of
thousands marched through Rome to protest against unemployment,
government cuts and big construction projects they say take
money away from social services.
Hooded protesters turned over garbage bins in front of the
economy ministry and set several of them on fire. Police in
riot gear charged, chasing demonstrators up side streets to
keep them away from the ministry.
Several hooded demonstrators, who threw smoke bombs, eggs and
bottles at the ministry and broke the window of a nearby
bank, were taken away by police.
The protest comes as Prime Minister Enrico Letta is trying to
hold together his shaky left-right coalition government and
struggling to lead Italy out of its worst post-war recession.
Letta's 2014 budget, unveiled on Tuesday, has become a focal
point of discontent, with unions complaining about freezes on
public sector salaries and what they say is an insufficient
easing of the tax burden on workers. Youth unemployment is at
an all time high at 40.1 percent.
Organisers said at least 70,000 people joined the march that
started in Piazza San Giovanni on the south side of the city
and snaked its way through a mostly deserted centre.
Many shops along the route were closed as a precaution for
fear the demonstration could turn violent, as a similar one
did two years ago when several people were injured as
protesters smashed windows and set fire to cars.
The mostly young demonstrators held up banners against
unemployment, lack of affordable housing and the planned TAV
high-speed train link to France.
Opponents of the project say that as well as environmental
concerns, the money to build the high-speech train should be
used to help the poor and unemployed.
"This protest is to demand basic rights: a job paying a wage,
and housing," said Matteo, a 20-year-old student from the
eastern Marche region, who declined to give his surname.
"All the most downtrodden people are here to protest,
unemployed people, students, immigrants, workers without job
security," he said.
Immigrants seeking asylum also joined the demonstration,
holding banners reading "Lampedusa," the name of the island
where many migrants land after crossing the Mediterranean Sea
from north Africa. Nearly 400 have died at sea this month
At least 4,000 police were on duty, securing the route of the
demonstration, particularly near the Industry Ministry and
the Bank of Italy.
Police said they had confiscated teargas canisters and rocks
from some of the demonstrators' backpacks.
They also said they found rocks and chains hidden behind
bushes along the route of the demonstration.
Police said 14 people, several from anarchist movements, had
been detained at the border with France and suspected of
planning to disrupt the demonstration with violence.