Occupy Rome protests go violent

The Occupy Wall Street movement has gathered steam for a month, culminating with the global day of action. Linked up with long-running demonstrations against European governments’ austerity measures, the movement attracts tens of thousands of Italians taking to the streets.

While most protests were relatively small and peaceful, the Rome event turned violent as groups of masked young demonstrators smashed windows, burned cars and threw rocks and firecrackers at banks and police in riot gear.

Crowds of elderly and families who initially formed the protest had dispersed as police began to engage the violent groups.

Italian riot police charged the protesters repeatedly, firing water cannons and tear gas. Around 70 people were injured, according to news reports.

Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno blamed the violence, saying there was a clear distinction between the rabble-rousers and the peaceful protesters. “There are groups of violent people that need to be isolated,” he said.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi called the violence a “worrying signal,” and added that the perpetrators “must be found and punished.”