Rome

Probes into 'brutality', ministry tear gas in Rome protests

Response to 'European Day' demonstrators under microscope

Probes into 'brutality', ministry tear gas in Rome protests

Rome, November 16 - The handling of this week's anti-austerity protests continued to come under scrutiny on Friday, when probes were launched into the firing of tear gas from the justice ministry in Rome and alleged police brutality. An amateur video obtained by daily newspaper La Repubblica caused a huge furore as it showed three tear gas canisters being fired in quick succession from the second floor of the ministry in Via Arenula. Commentators said that there had never been anything of the sort even in Italy's 'Years of Lead' of political violence of the 1970s and 80s. Justice Minister Paola Severino said she had ordered an internal investigation into the incident during Wednesday's anti-austerity protests in Rome that were part of the continent-wide European Day of Action and Solidarity. Rome's chief of police, Fulvio Della Rocca, admitted later on Friday that his officers were responsible, but denied they had behaved recklessly. "The tear gas from the ministry was fired by police officers: the canisters were fired in a parabola not in the direction of the demonstrators. The trajectory was redirected because the canisters hit the building," said Della Rocca. Rome prosecutors, meanwhile, opened an probe into possible police brutality during the protests. The probe will also look into any unlawful behavior on the part of protesters, who filled streets in thousands. Scenes of mayhem were captured on video, and images of apparent acts of police brutality have prompted Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri to vow that officers who used excessive violence will be punished. Della Rocca also defended his force's actions against the protesters, who were composed primarily of trade unionists and students but also included violent extremist elements. "If at a certain point we are militarily attacked, obviously we need to react, because we're also here for that reason, to enforce the law. That is our role," he said. In the Sicilian city of Palermo three police officers were injured on Friday in clashes with young people taking part in a student protest in Palermo against the government's austerity policies. The officers were hit during a charge to clear a central area, near the Sicilian city's cathedral, after protesters moved towards a venue where Senate Speaker Renato Schifani was taking part in a conference. The police came under a barrage of stones, bottles and firecrackers during the clashes.

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