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Jun-09-2007 11:05printcomments

Bush Visit to Rome and Vatican Draws Thousands of Protesters

The crowd in this ancient city was led by a banner that read "No Bush, No War".

U.S. President George W. Bush
U.S. President George W. Bush

(ROME) - Helicopters are circling overhead and 10,000 officers have been deployed in Rome to head off a crowd of protesters that could pose violence toward U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura who are visiting Rome and the Vatican.

Bush is in Italy to meet with Premier Romano Prodi, and he will finish his day in private talks with former premier and conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi.

The Associated Press reports that the main demonstration snaked peacefully through the capital, stretching nearly a mile, making its way toward the final rallying point at Piazza Navona, famed for its Bernini fountain.

It is reported that the procession stopped while a commander walked through the ranks urging the officers to look more relaxed, and as they deal with the throngs of angry crowds in full riot gear very much looking like something out of the 1960's, they probably aren't.

As the tension mounted, demonstrators began throwing bottles at police and are reported to have overturned tables in central Rome, and police fired tear gas to try to control the thousands of angry demonstrators.

The crowd in this ancient city was led by a banner that read "No Bush, No War" and they say they are taking aim at both local and global issues, as well as the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The protesters say they do not want Italian forces to participate in the conflicts.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says President Bush had no problem with the demonstrations, saying that is something the President's team anticipated.

Italian officials closed schools for the day in order to minimize traffic, they also closed four underground stations near the Vatican. Private air traffic above the capital was banned, and police officers closed off entire sections of the city, including the glitzy Via Veneto, the location of the US Embassy to Italy.

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