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Updated: Sat, 19 Oct 2013 17:19:55 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Italy anti-austerity protests draw thousands to Rome



Demonstrators wave flags and shout slogans during a protest in Rome on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. More than 4,000 riot police were dispatched to maintain order as tens of thousands of protesters marched through the capital on Saturday. Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

Demonstrators wave flags and shout slogans during a protest in Rome on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. More than 4,000 riot police were dispatched to maintain order as tens of thousands of protesters marched through the capital on Saturday. Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

Anti-austerity protesters in Rome threw eggs and firecrackers at the Finance Ministry during a march Saturday to oppose cuts to welfare programs and a shortage in low-income housing. Police said 11 people were detained.

More than 4,000 riot police were dispatched to maintain order as some 25,000 protesters marched through the capital on Saturday. There were moments of tension when demonstrators passed near the headquarters of an extreme-right group, but police intervened when a few bottles were thrown.

Later, demonstrators threw eggs, firecrackers and smoke bombs outside the Finance Ministry. Police reacted by dispersing the protesters, detaining 11 of the demonstrators. There were no reports of injuries.

Ahead of the march police detained some anarchists believed to pose a security threat. 

The protests were accompanied Friday by a 24-hour nationwide strike that caused disruptions for travellers. Train service was guaranteed in most cities for morning and evening commutes, but airports in Rome, Naples, Milan and Bologna had to cancel some flights. Some school and health workers also went on strike.

The USB and COBAS unions organized Friday's strike to protest austerity measures reducing transportation budgets. USB union co-ordinator Pierpaolo Leonardi accused the Italian government of imposing EU directives without concern for the impact on workers.

A smaller protest of about 600 workers was held in Milan.

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