Uncertainty in Rome after riots

December 15 2010
Rome reeled from the worst rioting in more than 30 years on Wednesday after a narrow victory by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in parliament heralded months of political uncertainty in Italy.

Mr Berlusconi survived a no-confidence vote in the lower house by just three votes, following the rebellion of speaker of parliament Gianfranco Fini who left the ruling coalition with his allies earlier this year.

More than 100 people were injured on Tuesday in running street battles ignited by the vote between hundreds of anti-Berlusconi protesters and riot police in some of the most tourist-heavy streets of the Italian capital.

“What happened yesterday was not an expression of freedom. It was an attack by organised groups of hooligans,” Mr Berlusconi said on a news show.

Protesters set cars alight, hurled cobblestones and beat officers with metal bars. Police retaliated by firing tear gas and striking protesters.

One policeman dragged to the ground was photographed with his gun in hand, though he later said the weapon had dropped out of his holster and he grabbed it to prevent it falling into the hands of protesters.

“Rome was defiled like it hadn’t been since 1977 during the terrible Years of Lead,” when Italy was rocked by violent political militancy, said the Corriere della Sera daily.

Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno was quoted by La Repubblica saying the clashes were “shocking” and likened them to the “climate of gratuitous violence that was on the streets of Rome in the 1970s and that I hoped to never see again.”

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