ROME (AP) — Thousands of supporters of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi rallied in a northern Italian city Saturday to protest the media mogul’s recent conviction by a Milan appeals court for tax fraud, cheering their hero as police in riot gear separated them from jeering opponents.


The backers turned out for the “Everyone for Silvio” rally by his Freedom People party in a square outside the cathedral in Brescia, a small industrial city that is a bastion of the conservative leader’s political support. As some arrived, waving pro-Berlusconi banners, some detractors shouted “jail, jail.” Helmeted police holding plastic body shields moved in between the noisy camps to prevent any physical violence.


The appellate court in its ruling Wednesday also upheld a four-year prison term and a five-year ban from political office.


Berlusconi will appeal to a higher court and currently serves in Parliament. The statute of limitations could run out on the case before the final appeal runs its course, which would essentially make the conviction fall by the wayside.


Pro-Berlusconi rally draws cheers, jeers