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Italians Protest Expansion at US Military Base


Tens-of-thousands of Italians protested Saturday in the northeastern city of Vicenza against the planned expansion of a U.S. military base nearby. Sabina Castelfranco was there, and filed this VOA report.

Shouting slogans saying that if the base goes ahead, a hard battle will continue, thousands took to the streets of Vicenza to protest the expansion of the U.S. military base.

Special trains and buses brought activists and anti-globalization protesters to the city. Security was tight with some 1,300 officers deployed on the streets, as helicopters hovered overhead.

But despite fears of possible violence, it was a peaceful demonstration. Many protesters were draped in rainbow-colored peace flags. Some shouted anti-American slogans, such as "Yankees go Home."

Vicenza resident Anna Faggi said these demonstrations are necessary because the government is too distant from its citizens, and it needs to know how the people feel. She said locals are against the expansion of the base because it will not bring a future of peace.

The military base in Vicenza is home to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Its expansion will increase the number of military personnel from 2,700 to 4,500.

The people of Vicenza fear it will cause problems to traffic and deplete resources, such gas and water. Faggi also said she was concerned about security.

She said this would become the largest base in Europe, and so it would also become a potential target for terrorism.

Despite the opposition, it is unlikely that there will be any change in plans to expand the base. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has said his government has no reason to halt the expansion, which already has been approved by Vicenza's city council.

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