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Italy steps up security in major cities amid protests by rival activists

Italy steps up security in major cities amid protests by rival activists
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Thousands of police officers have been deployed across Italy as demonstrations by far-right and anti-fascist groups get under way in the country.

Authorities said that protests in Rome, Milan and Palermo could draw crowds of up to 20,000 people on Saturday.

In Rome, some 3,000 officers were mobilised for marches and sit-ins.

Violent clashes in Italy between anti-fascist and far-right activists have increased in recent weeks ahead of a general election next month.

On Saturday, security measures were put in place in major cities including the mobilisation of riot police with metal detectors, Italian public broadcaster Rai reports.

In Milan, demonstrators at a march against the anti-immigration party The League - until recently known as the Northern League - clashed with riot police, who set up barricades and used batons to control the crowds.

In Rome, several thousand people took to the streets to protest for democratic values and against what they described as resurgent fascism.

Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is due to attend a demonstration in the capital later, which was arranged by the National Partisans Organisation (ANPI) under the slogan "Fascism Never Again".

At the same time in the city, a protest led by the left-wing union group Cobas will march against the labour reforms known as the Jobs Act, a signature policy of Mr Renzi s government.

Image caption Milan increased security on the city s streets ahead of rival demonstrations

Image caption Supporters of Italy s The League party also attended a political rally in Milan

In Milan, thousands of supporters of The League attended a rally led by the party s leader Matteo Salvini. At the rally, Mr Salvini climbed over two barriers and forced his way through reporters to shake hands with people, Reuters news agency reports.

There were scuffles in the city earlier on Saturday as police dispersed left-wing activists who set off flares during an unauthorised protest at a city centre monument.

Meanwhile, consecutive marches in Palermo in northern Sicily are expected to be attended by Roberto Fiore, the head of the far-right group Forza Nuova, and members of a far-left movement.
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