MILAN (Reuters) - Hooded protesters spray-painted slogans and threw smoke flares in Milan on Thursday to protest against the start of Expo 2015, a global showpiece of culture and technology which is expected to draw millions of visitors to Italy's business capital.
Police sealed off the city center, blocking traffic while a demonstration of students and young people passed by. Estimates of the crowd ranged between several hundred and 2,000.
The protest comes ahead of a much larger march planned for the start of Expo on Friday, when tens of thousands of NoExpo demonstrators are expected in the city center.
Expo 2015, on the theme of sustainable food, has rallied a diverse group of environmentalists, anti-capitalist and anti-globalization protesters who say its green-tinged message hides a big business agenda.
Some demonstrators threw paint at a shop of state controlled power company Enel and sprayed bank branch windows. Others threw eggs and tried to break windows of an office of Manpower, the staffing company which ran temporary employment for the Expo site, forcing police to disperse them.
"I don't work for Expo for free", read one of the banners carried by the NoExpo protesters.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has hailed the fair as a symbol of renewal for Italy's battered economy following years of recession and officials are counting on around 20 million visitors during the six months it will run.
(Reporting by Stefano Rellandini, writing by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Janet Lawrence)