ROME (AP) — Italian police fired tear gas and water cannons as protesters in Rome turned a demonstration against corporate greed into a melee Saturday, smashing shop and bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles.
The protest in the Italian capital was part of "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations against capitalism and austerity measures that went global Saturday, leading to dozens of marches and protests worldwide.
Black smoke billowed into the air in downtown Rome as a small group broke away from the main demonstration and wreaked havoc in streets closed to the Colosseum.
Protesters clad in black with their faces covered threw rocks, bottles and other objects at police in riot gear. Some had held clubs, others had hammers. They threw an incendiary devices and firecrackers at banks, destroyed bank ATMs and set trash bins on fire, news reports said.
Two news crews from Sky Italia were assaulted.
TV footage showed police in riot gear charging the protesters and firing water cannons at them.
The ANSA news agency said some protesters trashed offices of the Defense Ministry and of a labor agency, smashing windows with clubs and setting cars on fire.
Police were out in force as up to 100,000 protesters were expected a day after Premier Silvio Berlusconi barely survived a confidence vote in Parliament. Italy is rapidly becoming a focus of concern in Europe's debt crisis.
"People of Europe: Rise Up!" read a banner in Rome. Some peaceful demonstrators turned against the violent group and tried to stop them, hurling bottles, Sky Italia and ANSA said. Others fled, scared by the violence.
At least one man was injured as he tried to stop some protesters from hurling bottles.
Anarchist groups have often infiltrated demonstrations in Italy in the past. ANSA said four people from an anarchist group were arrested Saturday morning before the demonstration, with police seizing helmets, anti-gas masks, clubs and hundreds of bottles in their car.
Selva wrote from London.