Thousands of Northern League protesters have poured into Rome from their political base in the north to demand the Italian government keep out immigrants.

Matteo Salvini's regional-based party drew 40,000 people a few months ago in Milan with the same agenda opposing immigration, which they blame for Italy's economic woes.

The protesters gathered Saturday afternoon in Piazza del Popolo, a vast square in central Rome.

Salvini said Premier Matteo Renzi's government is "selling out to Europe." With regional elections this spring, Salvini hopes to capitalize on the growing strength of other right-wing movements in Europe, especially after the recent attacks by Islamist terrorists. Smugglers send waves of migrants and refugees from Libya to Italy.

Police were trying to keep marchers in a counter-demonstration from clashing with Salvini's supporters.