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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Italian students clash with police

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Italian policemen clash with demonstrators during a protest against the government-proposed education reforms. (AP)

Students protesting against state university budget cuts in Italy have clashed with riot police who used tear gas and vans to seal off much of Rome’s historic centre to stop them from reaching Parliament.

Lawmakers are voting on a contested reform bill many students and professors claim will give the private sector too much involvement in the state university system.

Protesters claim the funding cuts mean faculty positions will go unfilled.

The protests turned briefly violent as students, about 3,000 in all with a core group of about 200, poured onto the main thoroughfare of the historic centre, throwing eggs, tomatoes and smoke bombs at police.

At one point, protesters tried to overturn a police van. Riot police charged after them, using tear gas.

There were no reports of serious injuries or damage.

The heavy police presence, designed to prevent the protesters from reaching the square outside the Chamber of Deputies, blocked bus and tram routes for hours and jammed traffic on the main roads leading into the centre.

Residents and tourists alike were further inconvenienced when the students then marched on Rome’s main train station and occupied several tracks, the ANSA news agency reported.

Despite the problems, many onlookers said they understood the students’ concerns.

“Given the situation, I’m hoping for a new ’68,” said Nicola Roncolli, a 67-year-old pensioner, referring to the massive student protests of 1968. He said his detours around a rain-soaked city centre were a “necessary evil” and that he would have be marching alongside the students if he was well enough.

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