Former motorcycling champion Marco Melandri at centre of covid controversy in Italy.
Italy's 'No Green Pass' and 'No Vax' demonstrations returned to the streets of Rome, Milan and other Italian cities on Saturday afternoon, attracting several thousand people.
The events, which took place without any major incident, were organised after the Italian government recently tightened the 'Super Green Pass' rules and announced a covid vaccine mandate for the over-50s.
The Rome sit-in was held in Piazza S. Giovanni where protesters - many of them without masks - listened to speakers including 'No Vax' actor Enrico Montesano who roused the crowd with the rally cry "People like us never give up".
There was also a video message from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the US and prominent covid denier, who said: "It is the Lord who saves you, not an experimental serum... Your children will thank you for what you do.”
Protesters held placards that read "Vaccine-nazis off their thrones" and "Hands off the Constitution", with speakers directing insults at Italian president Sergio Mattarella and premier Mario Draghi.
Prior to the Rome demonstration there were concerns that the event could be "infiltrated" by far-right extremists, as what happened when a trade union headquarters was stormed in October.
In the late afternoon there were some moments of tension when a small group of protesters tried to start a march away from the piazza but the organisers of the event defused the situation by inviting everyone to "sit down and not be exploited".
The Milan rally in Piazza XXV aprile was organised by the Eurosceptic 'Italexit' party of Gianluigi Paragone, an Italian senator and former TV journalist.
The event was attended by Luc Montagnier, the 89-year-old French virologist who was a Nobel Prize winner in 2008, reports state broadcaster RAI News.
The scientist lashed out against vaccines that "do not protect but facilitate other infections", promising the crowd that "the unvaccinated will save humanity".
Also on stage was former motorcycling champion Marco Melandri who found himself at the centre of a controversy after candidly admitting that he got infected with covid on purpose in order to obtain Italy's Green Pass, describing the certificate as "blackmail".
Following a social media storm over his remarks, Melandri subsequently denied that he had deliberately caught covid, attempting to brush it off as a "sarcastic joke".
In addition to Rome and Milan, there were small protests in other Italian cities including Turin, Padua and Naples.
Italy's new Green Pass rules
Italy's latest covid restrictions come into force on 10 January when the government once again expanded the scope of the Super Green Pass, the digital certificate which can only be obtained by those who are vaccinated or have recovered from covid-19.
The Super Green Pass is a "reinforced" version of the "basic" Green Pass certificate which proves the holder has been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from covid-19. The 'super' version cannot be obtained by a negative covid test result, meaning that it excludes people who are unvaccinated.
The Super Green Pass is now required on all forms of public transport - local, regional and national - with commuters obliged to wear FFP2 masks.
It is also required for dining in restaurants, both indoors and outdoors, as well as in cinemas, theatres, stadiums, hotels, ski lifts, museums, gyms and swimming pools, along with a range of other activities from wedding receptions to theme parks.
From 20 January the basic Green Pass will be needed to access hairdressers and beauticians, while from 1 February it will be required to enter banks, post offices, non-essential shops and shopping malls. The unvaccinated will still be able to access grocery shops, supermarkets and pharmacies.
For official information about the covid-19 situation in Italy (in English) see the health ministry website. Photo ANSA
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Italy covid Green Pass protests return to Rome and Milan
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, Roma RM, Italy
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