ROME, (Reuters) – Protesters set fire to cars, threw paint and smoke bombs at the Italian parliament and clashed with riot police yesterday in Rome’s worst violence for years after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi survived a confidence vote.
Via del Corso, the main street stretching through the historic centre, near Berlusconi’s office and home to some of the capital’s smartest shops, was a battle scene of smoke, teargas and bloodied faces.
Smoke rose from the Pincio Hill above the famed Spanish Steps as protesters set fire to private cars, overturned heavy trash bins and prevented fire crews from putting out the flames.
At least 50 people were injured, including several policemen, and more than 40 protesters were detained, police said. The protesters were mostly students but also included workers and immigrants.
Television pictures showed dozens of people throwing stones at police, with officers in riot gear beating the protesters back and chasing them along narrow cobblestoned alleyways.
“While they are doing their little game in parliament, we are heading towards catastrophe. Where is my future? I don’t feel represented by this government, I don’t feel represented in my own country,” said 19-year old Marco, a university student.
The protesters had been hoping that Berlusconi would fall and had wanted to stage a victory demonstration. But he survived the no-confidence motion in parliament by a mere three votes. He would have had to resign if he had lost.
Shops were forced to close as protesters, many of them wearing ski masks, overturned tables of sidewalk restaurants, flower vases and parked motorcycles.
The protesters smashed bank windows, destroyed several cash machines and threw chairs and tables at police vehicles.
In the past several weeks, students have been protesting throughout Italy against austerity measures and university reforms planned by the centre-right government, matching similar demonstrations in other countries, including Britain.
Students also blocked Palermo airport in Sicily and briefly occupied the stock market building in Milan.