Anti-globalisation protesters gutted an employment agency and threw rolls of toilet paper at police today as small scuffles broke out ahead of two rallies during the European Union summit in Rome.
Police helicopters scanned from the skies for rowdy protesters while several thousand officers patrolled the ground, with authorities intent on avoiding the violence that plagued previous international meetings in Italy.
Anti-globalisation protesters were planning a march near the summit site in a southern part of the city, while unions organised a demonstration in central Rome.
But before these marches had started, a few hundred protesters trashed an employment agency in a neighbourhood near the summit, said Renato Meloni, a worker at the mechanic’s shop next door.
Police detained about 25 demonstrators.
In central Rome, a small group of anti-globalisation demonstrators hurled rolls of toilet paper at riot police guarding Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s offices - the day before, a group dumped barrels of dung in front of the Italian leader’s private residence.
At the summit site, police cordoned off the area and frogmen had combed an artificial lake nearby for possible explosives. Dozens of closed-circuit cameras monitored the area, news reports said, while police snipers kept watch from nearby buildings.
About half the flights at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport were expected to be cancelled today.
Travel was also disrupted in Naples, after demonstrators blocked the tracks at the main station when authorities refused them a special train to travel to the capital, the ANSA news agency said.
The US embassy warned Americans to avoid both marches in Rome, adding that the summit site march could be more volatile.
At a Group of Eight summit in 2001 in Genoa, riots broke out, leaving one protester dead and hundreds of police and demonstrators injured. Earlier that year, violent protests also broke out at a meeting in Naples.
Since then, Italian police have been careful to avoid clashes with protesters, while demonstrators have sought to prevent violent marchers from precipitating violence.