Ministry Annex Set Alight as Clashes Break Out in Rome
Seventy people were injured in violent clashes in Rome on Saturday that broke out at an anti-capitalist protest, with three in a serious condition, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Twenty-five were treated at a field clinic near St John Lateran square where most of the clashes between protesters and police occurred. The 45 others were taken to other emergency wards in Rome, the report said.
Groups of violent protesters threw bottles and smoke bombs at police lines at a rally that had passed off mostly peacefully as part of a global day of protests inspired by the "Occupy Wall Street" and "Indignant" movements, while a group of activists set alight a defense ministry annex in Rome.
Flames could be seen coming out of the roof and windows of the building on Via Labicana as firefighters struggled to tame the blaze. Dozens of masked protesters could be seen in the area, which had not been cordoned off.
Some protesters smashed bank and shop windows and set cars alight, while others shouted "No to violence!" and tried to restrain them.
Police said three people were injured, including one man who was hit by a bottle as he tried to stop violent protesters.
"Only One Solution: Revolution!" read one placard at the protest. Another said: "We Are Not Assets in the Hands of Bankers!" One group carried a cardboard coffin with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's name on it.
"Today is only the beginning. We hope to move forward with a global movement. There are many of us and we want the same things," said one protester, Andrea Muraro, a 24-year-old engineering student from Padua.
Around him, protesters chanted: "We're not paying for the crisis!"
"I hope politicians realize that this many people and around the world don't agree with their way of managing our lives," said a student organizer, Jacopo.
Famous monuments including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum were closed down and four metro stations were shut as 1,500 police officers patrolled the streets, while two police helicopters could be seen circling above.
The total number of participants expected was estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000 people, Italian media reported, citing organizers.
Numbers were boosted after Italy's main trade unions and student movements gave their backing to the protest.
Protesters came from 80 provinces across Italy.
"Young people are right to be indignant," Italian central bank chief Mario Draghi, who is set to take over as head of the European Central Bank next month, said on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Paris, Italian media reported.
"They're angry against the world of finance. I understand them," said the 64-year-old, a former vice chairman at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, adding however that "the demonstration should not degenerate."
As reports of the violence came through, he said: "It's a great shame."
Similar protests in the Italian capital in December 2010 degenerated into running street battles in the city center and left dozens injured. There have been fears of clashes ahead of Saturday's rally.