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Scuffles break out in Rome anti-austerity rally

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Scuffles have erupted in Rome as tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Italy’s capital to protest against unemployment, budget cuts and the social cost of the economic crisis.

On Saturday, a group of demonstrators hurled bottles at a police van and eggs at banks and the Economy Ministry to vent their anger at the government spending cuts.

Organizers said at least 70,000 people joined the march that started in Piazza San Giovanni square on the southern edge of Rome.

The mostly young demonstrators held up banners against unemployment, lack of affordable housing and the planned TAV high-speed train link to France.

“We are protesting a one-way austerity that is bringing the country to its knees,” Piero Bernocchi from Italy’s Cobas trade union group said, adding, “And it hasn’t achieved what it was meant to by bringing down debt…. Meanwhile politicians continue with their privileges.”

Some of the protesters are planning to set up a protest camp on Saturday night close to the Italian Infrastructure and Transport Ministry in protest against the ministry’s failure to build affordable housing and its money wastage on large-scale construction projects.

On October 15, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta unveiled the 2014 budget plan, which freezes public sector salaries and raises the tax burden on workers.

Italy is suffering its longest recession since the World War II with youth unemployment at an all time high of 40.1 percent.

The country started to experience recession after its economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011 and by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter of the same year.

Over the past decade, Italy has been the slowest growing economy in the eurozone as tough austerity measures, spending cuts, and pension changes have stirred serious concerns for many people already grappling with the European country’s ailing economy.

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