Rome protest against cuts descends into violence

Italian journalist Francesco Cirillo at the San Giovanni Piazza said much damage had been caused in central Rome

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Riot police have fought militant protesters in Rome as the biggest of a series of global rallies against banks and politicians tipped into violence.

At least 70 people were injured, three of them seriously, as police fought masked rioters with tear gas, water cannon and batons.

Other protesters tried to stop the rioters as they attacked cars and businesses, marring a peaceful rally.

The day saw coordinated protests in cities worldwide, most of them small.

Inspired by the Occupy Wall St movement and Spain's "Indignants", demonstrators turned out from Asia to Europe and back to New York for an event organisers said on their website was aimed at initiating "global change".

"United in one voice, we will let politicians, and the financial elites they serve, know it is up to us, the people, to decide our future," they added.

Masked militants

Tens of thousands of people had turned out to demonstrate peacefully in Rome.

Television pictures from the city showed streets packed with protesters waving banners, close to the Colosseum.

Economic protests

  • Original protest began on 15 May in Spain, badly hit by economic crisis
  • Sit-in at Madrid's Sol Square became a weeks-long protest camp
  • Israel also hit by summer of protests over high cost of living. Protest camp in Tel Aviv
  • Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest began in New York in September with small number of activists but soon grew to 1,500
  • OWS organisers say they are defending 99% of US population against wealthiest 1%
  • OWS used as model for global protests

However militants dressed in black infiltrated the crowd and began attacking property. Offices belonging to the Italian defence ministry were set on fire, some cars were burnt including an armoured police vehicle, in addition to attacks on cash dispensers and bank and shop windows.

The militants were challenged by other protesters, the BBC's David Willey reports from Rome. "No to violence!" they shouted and tried to restrain them. The injured included at least 30 police officers.

There was a message of support for the global day of protest from the chief of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi, who is set to take over as head of the European Central Bank (ECB) next month.

"Young people are right to be indignant," he was quoted by Italian media as saying.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Athens, Berlin, Rome and London

"They're angry against the world of finance. I understand them... We adults are angry about the crisis. Can you imagine people who are in their twenties or thirties?"

Outside the ECB itself in Frankfurt, Germany, thousands of people gathered to protest on Saturday.

A 27-year-old schoolteacher who gave his name only as Tobias told AFP news agency: "I see the global capitalist system as a time bomb for humans but also for the planet.

"Our well-being is financed to the detriment of other countries, [and] the ECB represents this unjust and murderous system."

Evening rally

Tens of thousands of people filled central Madrid on Saturday evening, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from the Spanish capital.

At the scene

Tens of thousands of protesters have come to Madrid's Sol Square, where the indignant movement first began five months ago.

There are a lot of families here, children with bright-coloured balloons. There are drummers and musicians, people singing and chanting. It is all very peaceful but every time a police helicopter passes overhead there are deafening boos.

There is a huge variety of posters and slogans on display, but the main shouts are against a political class that people here say no longer represents them, at an economic crisis that has led to mass spending cuts, huge unemployment and fears for the future.

People of all ages, from pensioners to children, and many of the young unemployed, gathered on Puerta del Sol Square, where the "Indignant" movement was launched in May. Organisers put the numbers at half a million.

In other developments

  • Hundreds of protesters marched through New York and the streets of downtown Washington DC
  • In Greece, about 2,000 people rallied outside parliament in Athens and a similar number reportedly turned out in the second city, Thessaloniki
  • At least 1,000 people demonstrated in London's financial district but were prevented by police from reaching the Stock Exchange, and five arrests were made
  • In Dublin, about 400 people marched to a hotel where an EU/IMF/ECB delegation involved in the country's ongoing financial bailout is staying, the Irish Times reports
  • Hundreds of people marched in New Zealand cities while in Sydney, Australia, some 2,000 people - including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists - rallied outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia
  • "Occupy" protests were also held in South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong

Observers say that, while the original protesters in Spain had concrete demands such as seeking a cut in working hours to tackle unemployment, many "Occupy" protesters are vague in their demands.

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