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article imageItaly PM says riots will not ruin Milan Expo

By AFP     May 2, 2015 in World

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned Saturday that stone-throwing protesters who clashed with police in Milan during the Expo 2015 opening would not ruin the world fair.

"They tried to ruin the fair, but four spoilt brats won't ruin the Expo," Renzi told Italian public television, while praising security forces.

Hours after the Expo 2015 opened Friday, dozens of protesters opposed to Milan's hosting of the fair took to the streets wearing balaclavas and gas masks.

They smashed windows and torched several cars and bins during a "No Expo" march which organisers said had brought 30,000 people onto the streets.

Police responded to the violence firing tear gas. Water cannons were used to put out the blazes, including one at a bank.

"They lost," Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina told reporters.

Organisers said "a great many" people visited the fair on Friday despite the clashes, but did not confirm the Italian media's estimate of 200,000.

On Saturday morning too, a large number of visitors waited in line to enter the fair site, which Expo 2015 commissioner Giuseppe Sala said was guarded by hundreds of troops and security guards.

Eleven million entry tickets have already been sold for the agriculture and gastronomy-themed event that will run until October 31, Sala added.

On Thursday evening, some six million tuned in to watch the opening concert on television, while four million others watched a ceremony on Friday morning.

Milan prosecutors have opened an investigation into the riots. Those convicted could face up to 15 years in jail.

Authorities have pledged 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) to help those whose cars or property was damaged in the clashes.

On Saturday morning, "No Expo" activists camping out in Milan's suburbs held a bike protest.

With a dozen plainclothes policemen closely following them on scooters, some 50 protesters on bicycles waved flags and chanted: "Expo, get out!"

The protest ended without incident with a picnic at the entrance of Eataly, an upscale supermarket and Expo 2015 partner.

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