On the streets of Rome and other major cities across Italy, riot police clashed with students protesting the latest cuts to education funding implemented under the austerity policies of the country’s technocratic government.
Police reported that six officers were injured in Rome, where approximately 1,000 high school and university students were protesting. Students have accused police of using excessive force, though it is not clear how many were arrested or injured.
In Rome, students wearing helmets and carrying shields threw stones at police and attempted to rush a police van before being repulsed by a baton charge. In Bologna, protesters pelted banks with eggs, while Palermo students burned copies of political manifestos.
Ugly scenes of violence were also reported in Milan, Turin, Naples, Bologna and Modena.
The protests come amid a wave of anti-austerity actions, which are particularly unpopular among young Italians -- of whom one in three is currently out of work.
“The protest is to renew the political class, to get rid of those who are corrupt," said Giulio Bianco, a protesting high school student from Rome, Reuters reported.
"The politicians make the ordinary people pay. These are heavy sacrifices, and [austerity] is a risky policy to keep imposing them."
Many of the protesting students expressed anger with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who stepped down last October after pushing a €54 billion ($74 billion) austerity package through parliament.
Italian economist Mario Monti became prime minister in November and also took on the post of minister of Economy and Finance. His government has been implementing the cuts outlined by the former administration, but has also introduced further cuts, pushing a €30 billion ($39 billion) austerity package through parliament in December.
Students have complained that the austerity measures have impeded their education and ruined their prospects for employment.
Since Berlusconi stepped down, unemployment has risen from 8.9 percent to 10.7 percent July this year.
A student protester identified only by his first name Matteo told euronews that the protests were not merely to express anger over the cuts, but to emphasize the importance of education.
“We take to the streets not only to say that we reject these austerity politics, but also to bring to the public’s attention the problems of our education system, to remind people that schools are an important part of society and we can’t do without them,” he said.