Thousands of protesters opposing expansion of the US military base at Vicenza clashed with Italian police over the weekend as world leaders gathered for the G8 summit. Riot forces fired teargas at demonstrators, some of them wearing crash helmets and carrying makeshift shields, who retaliated with hurled bottles and fireworks at a bridge leading to the base.
Vicenza locals overwhelmingly oppose the doubling of the size of the base, home to 3,000 soldiers of the US 173 Airborne Brigade. The Italian government has approved construction of a new 6,000-square-meter expansion on the site of the old Dal Molin airport on the city’s outskirts. Despite approval by Rome, Vicenza residents have rejected the base expansion in a referendum. The plan would allow the transfer of four US battalions from Germany, raising the number of active-duty personnel at Vicenza to 5,000 from about 2,900 already stationed at the Ederle base on the other side of town. Construction at Dal Molin is scheduled to be completed by 2011.
World leaders are to meet this week in L’Aquila for the summit focusing on the world economy, climate change, trade and development. Anti-capitalist protesters plan a series of demonstrations against the summit cross Italy. (AP, Reuters, July 4)
Last year, 15 police and other officials were found guilty of brutalizing protesters at the Genoa G8 summit in 2001.
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