ROME: Protesters set cars alight and hurled cobblestones at police in chaotic scenes in central Rome on Tuesday after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won a crucial confidence vote in parliament.
Police fired tear gas and hit protesters with truncheons in some of Rome’s most tourist-heavy streets. At least five protesters were seen being taken away by police and several could be seen with blood running down their faces.
“I’m really very ashamed of being Italian. Today is the end of Italian democracy,” Marianna Martellozzo, 24, a student protester, told AFP.
Protesters banged on the metal blinds of shuttered shops in the city centre as word spread that Berlusconi had won the confidence vote.
Some of the protesters later threw paint and firecrackers at the buildings of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies where the vote took place.
A police van in the city centre was also set alight by protesters, some of whom wore motorcycle helmets and ski masks and wielded metal poles.
Citing officials and hospital sources, SkyTG24 news channel reported 20 protesters were injured in the clashes and around 10 detained. At least three police officers were injured, ANSA news agency reported.
There was a tense stand-off in one square in central Rome, where protesters burnt a garbage truck and set fire to a barricade made up of tables and chairs between them and police lines. “Go away police,” they shouted.
The clashes came after a mostly peaceful anti-Berlusconi march through Rome that brought together a variety of disaffected people including students, unemployed people and inhabitants of the earthquake-struck city of L’Aquila.
“We’re here to say that it isn’t right to vote for confidence in a government that after carrying out cosmetic operations on our city has now abandoned it,” said Ilia Antenucci from a L’Aquila campaign group.
Organisers estimated the number of protesters in Rome at around 100,000. Thousands more took part in rallies across Italy, including in Milan where protesters briefly broke into the stock exchange building.
Among the protesters were many students, who are up in arms over an overhaul of the university system announced by Berlusconi’s government.
A small group of protesters in Milan broke into the stock exchange building and unfurled a banner reading: “You’re a bunch of racist profiteers.”
Students also staged a brief sit-in on the landing strip in Palermo airport and some 3,000 marched through the centre of Catania in Sicily. There were also protests in Bari, Cagliari, Genoa, Naples and Turin.