Riot police dragged away some 350 squatter families from abandoned offices in Rome amid violent clashes on Wednesday -- the latest in a rising tide of forced evictions in Italy fuelled by the economic crisis.
Several people were injured as police used truncheons to break through a large group of protesters outside the building, where squatters had barricaded themselves in and taken to the roof.
An AFP photographer saw between 100 and 150 officers then entering the building -- a former state-owned insurance agency -- and escorting the residents out, nine days after the occupation began.
The families were loaded into around 10 waiting police vans in the area south of the city centre, which was entirely closed off to traffic for the operation.
"They clubbed us wildly, it was brutal," Cristiano Armati, a member of the Coordinamento association which had helped occupy the building, told AFP by telephone from hospital.
"It doesn't end here though. The fight for housing rights will go on," said Armati, who said he was being treated for a broken elbow and cuts to the head.
Another protester injured in the clashes broke her leg and was seen being taken away in an ambulance.
Rome city council said around 90 properties in the city are currently occupied by squatters. The number of evictions in the capital is on the rise as families struggle to pay rent amid record-high unemployment.
The council carried out 3,346 evictions in the first six months of 2013 -- a 10-percent increase from the first six months of 2012, according to the latest data.
A steady increase since 2008 "shows just how grave the impact of the economic crisis has been, dragging ever greater swaths of the population into the emergency housing phenomenon," a council official told AFP.
The squatters were a mix of Italians and immigrants, many of whom lost their jobs in the economic crisis.
"They broke in, throwing our belongings out of the window, dragging us along the floor and kicking those who resisted," one squatter, who did not want to be named, told La Repubblica daily.
The government last month launched a new housing plan that promised to double rent subsidies for low earners to 200 million euros ($280 million) for 2014 and 2015, but it also cracked down on squatters' rights.
Critics say the subsidies are not enough and insist the government should do more to free up empty properties.
An investigation by Italy's Panorama magazine last month put the number of lodgings currently lying empty in the Italian capital alone at 50,000 units.
Rome's council said it was cracking down on those abusing the system, seizing council properties from high-income earners, who pay an average of 79 euros ($109) a month for apartments in the city centre -- often despite owning yachts or secondary properties