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Activists throws flares and objects towards police. AP/Press Association Images
milan expo

Police use tear gas on stone-throwing protesters

Violent clashes have broken out in Italy as tens of thousands of protesters come out onto the streets.

ITALIAN POLICE CLASHED with protesters at the Milan Expo today, firing tear gas at the masked demonstrators who had pelted officers with stones.

The protesters also set several vehicles and rubbish bins on fire and set off firecrackers and smoke bombs on the opening day of the six-month food-themed Expo.

Organisers said the “No Expo” had brought 30,000-40,000 people onto the streets.

Firefighters were also battling to put out flames at a bank branch on whose walls was scrawled: “You’ve skinned us, today you pay.”

Police called in back-up at the site where water cannons were also used to put out flames engulfing burning cars.

The windows of a bank and a property agency had also been smashed, while a McDonald’s restaurant had the words “Expo=mafia” written on its walls.

Italy Expo Protest AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Critics of the Expo say the event is a waste of public funds and that it exploited workers by offering precarious contracts and by using volunteers.

Thousands of visitors poured into the specially-created site on the edge of Milan for the festival.

After months of concern about delays, partly-linked to a corruption scandal which hit the organisation last year, it appeared most of the key construction work for the Expo had been finished just in the nick of time.

Some participants said organisational problems meant many of the pavilions and exhibits were not fully operational.

Italy Expo Protests A demonstrator at the protest. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Declaring the festival open, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi insisted Milan and Italy had defied the critics who had said they wouldn’t be ready in time.

“They said we would never do it but today the Expo is a reality,” Renzi said, paying tribute to workers who have been labouring round the clock for weeks to ensure the show went ahead.

“In these coming months, the world will be able to taste Italy, its specialities but especially the profound desire it has to write a new chapter of hope,” Renzi said.

Originally published: 18.09

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