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About 2,000 demonstrators briefly occupied tracks at Vicenza’s main train station Thursday night to protest a recent court ruling that has cleared the way for construction to begin at the Dal Molin airfield, according to numerous Italian media reports.

Protesters were on the tracks for only about 10 minutes, according to a report filed by the Italian news agency ANSA. Police, who had tried to deny protesters entry to the station, then pressed them to leave, according to the report.

Train service was not disrupted.

Baton-wielding police briefly clashed with the protesters, and a few policemen and protesters reportedly received minor injuries. The ANSA report said that police filmed the protest and have suggested that some protesters could be facing charges, which were not specified.

The U.S. proposal to use part of Dal Molin for offices and barracks for the 173rd Airborne Brigade has drawn protests since it first drew public attention a few years ago. The Italian government consistently has backed the proposal, but a decision in June by a Venice administrative court to block the project renewed doubts about its future. That decision was reversed Tuesday, though, by the State Council — Italy’s top administrative court.

Unexploded ordnance clearance and other preliminary work still need to be completed on the airfield before construction can begin. The U.S. hopes to move troops onto the base by 2012.

The Southern European Task Force (Airborne) issued an advisory Friday, cautioning American personnel to stay away from such protests. It also suggested that U.S. personnel avoid plazas in the downtown area as well as the train station over the weekend.

The protest was timed to coincide with a visit to Vicenza by Paolo Costa, the Italian government’s point man on the Dal Molin project.

Costa — a center-left member of the European Parliament and former Venice mayor — was given broad authority by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to serve as his representative in matters regarding the project.

Valentina Lehman provided translation for this report.


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