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Police fire tear gas on anti-austerity protesters in Rome, 20 officers were injured in violence

One protester lost a number of fingers after a firecracker apparently exploded prematurely in his hand.

Italy Protest An anti-austerity protest erupted in violence in Rome. Source: AP/Press Association Images

POLICE FIRED TEAR gas and made a number of arrests in Rome on Saturday as an anti-government protest turned violent, leaving several injured, according to medics and an AFP photographer.

Hooded protesters hurled rocks and firecrackers at police, causing some 20 injuries to officers, according to authorities.

One protester was seriously hurt, losing a number of fingers after a firecracker apparently exploded prematurely in his hand.

According to the interior ministry, six people were taken into custody.

Protest organisers said 15,000 people had taken part in the rally but police could not confirm that number.

Italy Protest A man fires a slingshot during the demonstration. Source: AP/Press Association Images

The demonstration made up of workers, students, and anti-austerity campaigners — started peacefully but turned violent when the group reached the Ministry for Industry in the city centre.

Flag-waving protesters shouted slogans against government employment reform plans, and carried banners reading “housing, income, dignity”, and “you can call us NEET”, the English acronym for people ,not in education, employment, or training,.

“Our situation is precarious, and we are angry”, one banner read.

Protesters threw eggs and oranges at government buildings before turning on police, while officers tried to disperse the crowd by surging towards the group and blasting them with tear gas, leaving many protesters fleeing down side streets.

Italy Protest A riot police officer tackles a demonstrator. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who came to power in February, has put forward an ambitious economic reform programme which will see public spending reduced by 4.5 billion euros ($6.2 billion).

With the country’s unemployment rate reaching a record 13 percent in February, he says reforms are a “precondition for economic recovery”.

He said last week that changes were needed because in Italy “there are those who have taken much, too much over the years, and it is time they give some back”.

© – AFP 2014

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