ROME, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Police clashed with masked protesters Saturday in Rome as a massive march against austerity measures and economic conditions turned violent, witnesses said.
At least 100 protesters wearing hoods or motorcycle helmets hurled flares and bottles at police guarding the economy ministry building, The Daily Telegraph (Britain) reported. The protesters, beaten back by police, set fire to garbage cans on the side streets.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Rome Saturday to protest stagnant government wages, high unemployment and the implementation of an expensive high-speed rail line connecting the French city of Lyon with Turin, Euronews reported.
The Daily Telegraph said police estimated the crowds at 50,000, while organizers said the number was closer to 70,000.
The protest came after a one-day transportation worker strike that left many Roman workers stranded or stuck in traffic jams after public employees walked off the job for much of the day to protest layoffs and wages, ANSA news agency said.
Police had been prepareing for violent confrontations. Mayor Ignazio Marino ordered cars not to park in portions of the city for fear they would be torched and had ordered that garbage cans be removed so protesters couldn't hurl them or use them to stash weapons.