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Demonstrators wearing Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi masks are seen in downtown Rome on Dec. 5, 2009 at a "No Berlusconi-Day" rally asking for Berlusconi's resignation. (Riccardo De Luca)
Demonstrators wearing Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi masks are seen in downtown Rome on Dec. 5, 2009 at a "No Berlusconi-Day" rally asking for Berlusconi's resignation. (Riccardo De Luca)

Tens of thousands march on Rome for 'No Berlusconi Day' Add to ...

Tens of thousands of Italians chanting "resign, resign" marched through Rome on Saturday demanding that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who they accused of corruption, step down.

The national demonstration, called "No B Day," was organized by grassroots organizations from around the country which ran appeals on the internet and social networking sites for Italians to flock to Rome to participate.

"I have a dream - Berlusconi in jail," the demonstrators chanted in unison as they marched the several kilometres from the capital's main train station to a square in front of St. John's Basilica.

The crowd, which police estimated at 90,000 but organizers said was larger, included actors and writers, among them Nobel Literature laureate Dario Fo.

"This a day of democracy, a day that shows that the country can come together to build an alternative and most of all to tell Berlusconi to go," said Antonio di Pietro, a ex anti-graft magistrate who heads the opposition Italy of Values party.

"There are people from all over the country here, and even from abroad with one message: Berlusconi has to go!. Berlusconi has to be treated like every other citizen. He has to face trial," Mr. Di Pietro said.

Mr. Berlusconi faces several corruption trials after he lost his immunity from prosecution in October when Italy's highest court ruled that a law passed by his government was unconstitutional.

That law was one of several critics said were enacted to help him avoid corruption trials.

In one case, Mr. Berlusconi is charged with paying British lawyer David Mills a $600,000 bribe in 1997 from secret funds held by his family-owned broadcasting empire Mediaset to withhold incriminating details of business dealings.

Another case involves the acquisition of TV rights by Mediaset, which prosecutors say bought the rights at an inflated price from two offshore companies controlled by Mr. Berlusconi. Mr. Berlusconi is accused of tax fraud and false accounting.

Last month his centre-right lawmakers proposed a reform of Italy's cumbersome judicial system but critics say he is just looking out for his own interests because the reform would effectively apply the statute of limitations to his cases.

Mr. Berlusconi, who denies all the accusations against him, has dismissed the opposition as "communists" with whom dialogue is impossible and has accused magistrates of being leftists bent on destroying him.

"Berlusconi must face trial," Salvatore Borsellino, brother of anti-Mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, who was killed by a Mafia bomb in 1992, told the crowd.

One demonstrator carried a placard based on the Monopoly board game: It read "Go to Jail - Game Over."

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