Rioting today swept Rome after Silvio Berlusconi’s rightwing government narrowly survived a censure motion in parliament amid claims he had bought his way out of trouble.
Hooded protesters set up flaming barricades as police baton-charged demonstrators in several parts of the capital’s historic centre. Cars and council vehicles were set alight, and officers fired teargas at protesters.
Initial reports spoke of at least 80 police and demonstrators injured in the disturbances.
Some demonstrators wielded iron bars and threw paving stones during the most violent disturbances seen in Rome for many years. The normally sedate city rang to the sound of exploding firecrackers hurled by protesters.
By mid-afternoon two thick columns of smoke rose from the remnants of a barricade at the entrance to the historic Piazza del Popolo. At least two protesters, and an unknown number of police officers, were hurt.
In at least one incident police were reported to have been surrounded and beaten with bars and sticks. Elsewhere, eyewitnesses said police had turned on young people who were nothing to do with the demonstration and had beaten them.
The protesters included students demonstrating against a recently-approved university reform bill, trade unionists, victims of last year’s earthquake in the Abruzzo region, and members of a revolutionary Marxist party.