Thousands protest US base expansion in n. Italy

Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully through the northeastern Italian city of Vicenza under a heavy police presence to protest a planned US military base expansion that has strained relations within the governing center-left coalition. Despite fears that violent demonstrators would be drawn to Saturday's protest, the march took place without incident, finishing outside the main train station where it started as hundred of police officers stood guard and helicopters hovered overhead. The route did not pass the airfield where the expanded base is to be built, where critics keep a permanent picket. Trains and buses brought in leftist activists and anti-globalization protesters from across Italy to support residents concerned that the expansion would increase traffic and noise and air pollution, deplete local resources including water and gas, and raise the risk of terrorist attacks. Police estimated the crowd at 50,000 to 80,000, while organizers put the numbers at 120,000.