* Students, teachers protest against Monti's cuts
* Far right group, anti-fascists also plan rallies
ROME Nov 24 Several thousand students and
teachers marched through central Rome on Saturday to protest
against austerity measures imposed by Prime Minister Mario
Monti's government that have cut into education spending.
Appointed a year ago when Italy came close to a Greek-style
debt crisis, Monti has pushed through painful tax hikes and
spending cuts to try to rein in public finances at a time when
schools and universities say they desperately need more support.
"We need to fight for our rights. This government doesn't
represent us and these austerity measures and all the cuts
they've introduced are totally anti-democratic," said student
protester Tommaso Bernardi.
Several other protests are due to take place in Rome later
on Saturday including a rally organised by a far right group
that opposes the Monti government as well as an anti-fascist
Police have organised different routes and times for the
rallies to reduce the risk of violence after scuffles broke out
between police and demonstrators during protests on Nov. 14 that
saw the police criticised for heavy-handed tactics.
"We need to change this country, starting from investments
in schools, universities and culture," said Michele Orezzi, a
university union coordinator, saying that Italy's education
system was "crumbling into pieces".
With youth unemployment at about 35 percent, more than three
times the national average, and Monti's austerity policies
biting into education spending, school pupils and university
students have taken an active role in anti-government protests.
Students have occupied schools around Rome in recent weeks
to express their anger and frustration at repeated funding cuts,
chaining gates shut and camping inside classrooms.
Monti has defended his austerity plan, saying he believes
his technocrat government will be remembered for having helped
Italy pull itself out of a deep economic crisis without needing
to resort to external aid.