Police, protesters scuffle at Italy austerity rally
October 29, 2012, 12:10 am TWN
ROME -- Tens of thousands of demonstrators, most of them young, marched in Rome during a "No Monti Day" Saturday called by unions, left-wing parties and other groups to protest government austerity measures in recession-hit Italy.
Watched by a heavy police presence, some demonstrators wore giant masks of Premier Mario Monti or the devil, while others carried red banners and puppets of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Minor scuffles between masked protesters dressed in black and the police marred the end of the demonstration.
The group of anarchists lobbed smoke-bombs, firecrackers and bottles at the police and blocked a highway.
Shops were shuttered on the streets demonstrators took during the 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) march for fear of violence, but only minor incidents were reported, with some demonstrators throwing eggs, bottles and firecrackers at bank branches.
Police banned all traffic in the area taken by the marchers and the capital's mayor asked demonstrators to "respect the city."
Banners carried slogans such as "Cuts, only cuts" and "Monti Out" to denounce a series of structural reforms the government has imposed in an effort to battle off the eurozone debt crisis.
Critics have accused Monti of failing to boost growth and of stifling the population with high taxes. Italy's unemployment rate is at 10.7 percent, but much higher among younger voters.