Italians rally against prime minister

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Los Angeles Times

ROME - About 200,000 people rallied in one of Rome's biggest squares Saturday to blast Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for what the protesters view as his rewriting of Italian laws to save himself from criminal punishment on corruption charges.

Demonstrators of all ages, gathered in a festive atmosphere on a perfect sunny day, also charged that Berlusconi, the country's richest man, has used his dominance of Italian television to mislead much of the public and thereby escape serious political damage from his legal machinations.

"Italians voted for Berlusconi to follow a dream but instead awoke to a nightmare," film director Nanni Moretti, head of a group of prominent intellectual and cultural figures who organized the rally, declared to the balloon-festooned, banner-waving crowd.

"Berlusconi is not against democracy," Moretti said. "Democracy is something extraneous to him. He doesn't know what it is."

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