Violence erupts in Rome after Berlusconi wins vote

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.

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