Rome set for anti-fascist rally on Saturday as calls grow in Italy to disband neo-fascist Forza Nuova group.
There are growing calls in Italy for the extreme right group Forza Nuova to be shut down following clashes in Rome on Saturday evening during a protest against the covid Green Pass.
Police arrested 12 people for their role in the violence, including Roberto Fiore (62), and Giuliano Castellino (45), the national leader and Rome leader of Forza Nuova respectively.
The demonstration was held in protest over a requirement for all workers in Italy to have the Green Pass - a digital or paper certificate showing that people have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from covid-19 - with the new measure coming into force on 15 October.The rally began in Piazza del Popolo, in front of thousands of people, before hundreds of protesters attempted to reach the Palazzo Chigi office of prime minister Mario Draghi.
The 'No Green Pass' protesters were stopped by a cordon of police officers who responded with batons, water cannon and tear gas.Another group of protesters, in the presence of Forza Nuova (FN) leaders, stormed the headquarters of CGIL, the country's largest trade union, trashing offices inside.
Italy's president Sergio Mattarella and premier Mario Draghi swiftly sent messages of support to CGIL secretary general Maurizio Landini, strongly condemning the violence.
In a statement from Palazzo Chigi on Saturday night, Draghi said: "The right to express one's ideas can never degenerate into acts of aggression and intimidation", adding that the government continues "its commitment to complete the vaccination campaign against covid-19."On Sunday Italy's political leaders visited the CGIL base, one after the other, to offer their solidarity to Landini who described the attack as a "democratic wound... an act that violated the world of work and its rights".
"They don't scare us"
"I would like it to be clear that if anyone has thought of intimidating us, of frightening us, of making us shut up, they must know that the CGIL, the workers' movement are the ones that have defeated fascism in this country, who have regained democracy...they don't scare us" - said Landini - "All those groups that refer to fascism must be dissolved and this is the time to say it clearly."
Openly fascist movements
Landini's call was echoed by the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) deputy Emanuele Fiano who said his party would present an "urgent" parliamentary motion on Monday calling for the "dissolution of Forza Nuova and the other openly fascist movements."
Former Italian premier Giuseppe Conte, leader of the populist Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), also visited CGIL, saying: "The conditions are in place for the disbanding of Forza Nuova."Forza Nuova responded on Sunday by issuing a statement via Telegram saying that "the people have raised the level of the battle and it won't stop."
"From tomorrow, from 15 October, and until the Green Pass is withdrawn definitively, the popular revolution will not stop its journey, with or without us" - wrote FN - "The regime is in trouble, yesterday's Roman day is a watershed between the old and the new, but the mainstream media, police chiefs and parties of the system are unable to read the facts."
Political reaction from the right
The assault on the CGIL base was condemned by Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing Lega, and by Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Fratelli d'Italia.
Meloni, however, refused to comment on the role of neo-fascists in the CGIL attack, saying she didn't know "the matrix" of the protest.
Meloni was speaking from Madrid where she was guest of honour at a rally organised by Vox, the far-right and ultra-nationalist Spanish political group.
Rome centre-right mayoral candidate Enrico Michetti, who visited CGIL to offer Landini his support, condemned the violent attack.
Asked if it was "fascist violence", Michetti said "I don't know", before underlining that he was against "any form of violence."
On Monday all CGIL offices in Italy will be open with a general assembly scheduled outside the Rome headquarters.
Anti-fascist rally in Rome
Along with the CISL and UIL trade unions, CGIL is organising a major anti-fascist rally in defence of "work and democracy" in Rome on Saturday 16 October.
The event will be held on the eve of a run-off mayoral vote in the capital, in a race between the centre-right Michetti and the centre-left Roberto Gualtieri (PD).
Salvini said the Lega would not be participating in the rally, claiming it is being "organised by the left on the day of electoral silence, before the run-off", adding that he was against the idea of disbanding parties.
"Rome is proudly anti-fascist"
Rome's outgoing mayor Virginia Raggi said in a tweet on Sunday: "The images of violence we have seen are unacceptable. Solidarity with the CGIL. I reiterate clearly that Rome is proudly anti-fascist and that for FN there can be no space in our city."
Umberto I hospital
In addition to the CGIL attack there were violent scenes at Umberto I hospital, on Saturday night, where an injured protester was taken after being detained by police during clashes. Around 40 protesters arrived at the hospital where they tried to break into the accident and emergency ward, reports Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
Three medical workers were injured in the scuffles, including a female nurse hit on the head with a glass bottle, as hospital staff barricaded themselves inside, in scenes described as "intolerable" by Lazio regional health councillor Alessio D'Amato.
Italy's vaccination campaign
There are 43 million people in Italy fully vaccinated, with covid hospitalisations declining steadily since early summer, however around 8 million Italians have yet to receive even the first covid shot.
Details about the Green Pass can be found - in Italian - on the Certificazione Verde website. For official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy - in English - see the health ministry website.