Thousands of Italian students hold anti-austerity protests

ROME - Thousands of university students and school children took to the streets of Italy's biggest cities on Friday to protest against austerity measures imposed by Prime Minister Mario Monti's government.

Some scuffles broke out in Milan, Rome and Turin between the protesters and riot police, with four officers lightly injured in Rome and five students injured in Milan. Fifteen protesters were also briefly detained in Milan.

The protests were against deep cuts in the education budget by the previous government under Silvio Berlusconi, as well as more widely against recent reductions in local government finances and the freeze on public sector hiring.

"No to the Crisis and Austerity! Let's take back our Schools and Cities!" read a large banner at the front of the protest in Rome.

The protesters said cuts meant education was now "only for people who can afford it" because of the cost of school books and university rates.

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