Anticipating protests, Italian authorities ordered a 24-hour ban on protests in central Rome during Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit from Sunday night to Monday evening.
The directive didn't stop a pro-Kurdish group, which objects to Turkey's treatment of Kurds in Turkey and Syria, holding a sit-in outside the Castel Sant'Angelo, not far from where Erdogan was meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The demonstrators, carrying a banner reading “Erdogan killer” and chanting “shame, shame”, attempted to march towards St Peter's Square, according to Ansa, only to be stopped by police dressed in riot gear and wielding batons.
One person was reported injured. Pictures showed a man lying on the ground with blood on his face.
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Two people were arrested, Ansa said.
“So much for your democracy,” the news agency quoted one demonstrator as saying. “Today we're here to defend our mothers and children. Today you and the pope lost.”
Erdogan met Pope Francis for just under an hour on Monday morning, when the pontiff gave him a medallion embossed with an angel strangling a “demon of war” – a symbol of peace and justice.
The two discussed the status of Jerusalem and tensions in the Middle East, the Vatican Press Office said, as well as the challenges facing Turkey as it takes in vast numbers of refugees.
Erdogan's visit to Italy – the first of its kind in nearly 60 years – was also set to include a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, with illegal immigration, defence and EU membership likely to feature on the agenda.
As well as attracting protest from Kurds and human rights groups, the visit was also criticized by the leader of the far-right Northern League, Matteo Salvini, who said that he was “ashamed that Italy is welcoming the representative of a bloodthirsty extremist regime, from a de facto Islamic country where religion rules over law”. The League vehemently opposes Turkey's potential entry into the European Union, which it has called a threat to “our cultural and religious identity”.