Tens of thousands march in Rome anti-capitalist protest

AFP , Saturday 15 Oct 2011

Thousands marched in Rome as part of a global day of protests against the financial crisis, as isolated groups of protesters smashed bank and shop windows and set two cars alight

Rome
A car burns during a demonstration of the 'Indignant' group against banking and finance in Rome (Reuters)

Tens of thousands marched in Rome on Saturday as part of a global day of protests against the financial crisis, as isolated groups of protesters smashed bank and shop windows and set two cars alight.

"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!"

The march was mostly peaceful and some of the protesters threw bottles at those behind the violence and tried to eject them from the march. Firefighters struggled to make their way through the crowd to put out the fires.

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.

Protesters arrived in Rome on trains and an estimated 750 buses from some 80 provinces across Italy, organisers said. Italian news media have said the total number of participants could reach between 100,000 and 200,000 people.

They are expected to gather on a large square in front of St John Lateran basilica that is frequently used for trade union gatherings and concerts. Some have brought tents and sleeping bags intending to camp out there.

"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."

Similar protests in the Italian capital in December 2010 degenerated into running street battles in the city centre and left dozens injured. There have been fears of clashes ahead of Saturday's rally.

At the start of the rally around 100 activists barged into the five-star Exedra Hotel chanting anti-capitalist slogans. They came out of the hotel when dozens of police arrived at the scene.

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