Calls to ban neofascist groups after violence at Rome Covid pass protests

Founder of far-right party among 12 arrested after mob storms A&E department and trade union HQ

Calls are growing in Italy to abolish neofascist movements after violent protests against Covid-19 vaccine passes in Rome, during which demonstrators tried to force their way into the official residence of the Italian prime minister.

Twelve people, including Roberto Fiore, the founder of the far-right Forza Nuova party, were arrested in connection to Saturday’s unrest, in which a group of about 30 raided a hospital accident and emergency unit – injuring four medical workers – and the offices of a trade union were stormed.

Protesters tried to force their way past riot police and into the Chigi palace, the official residence of Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, in scenes reminiscent of supporters of the former US president Donald Trump storming the Capitol in January.

Police storm a barricade
Police storm a barricade set up by anti-vaccine pass demonstrators in Rome on Saturday. Photograph: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Neofascists had infiltrated a crowd of an estimated 10,000 people who had gathered in central Rome to protest against a government rule that obliges public and private workers to have a “green pass” before entering their workplaces.

The measure comes into force on 15 October and will require workers to have been double vaccinated, to show proof of a negative test taken within the previous 48 hours or of having recovered from Covid-19.

Giuliano Castellino, the leader of Forza Nuova, who has been banned from protests in the capital due to previous violence, allegedly incited the crowd to ransack the offices of the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Italy’s oldest trade union. A gang used metal bars and sticks to smash their way into the building.

Ransacked trade union offices
The ransacked national headquarters of the CGIL trade union. Photograph: Riccardo De Luca/AGF/REX/Shutterstock

The scenes were widely condemned on Monday, with politicians from the centre-left Democratic party presenting a motion in parliament calling for Forza Nuova and other neofascist movements to be dissolved. A similar motion was presented by the centrist Italia Viva party and the Italian Socialist party.

The politicians said the scenes on Saturday evoked the violence used by “armed squads that [Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship] used from 1920 onwards for the devastation of clubs, homes, workers’ leagues, trade union offices, the press and the elimination of political opponents”.

Forza Nuova was founded in 1997 and has a base in most major Italian cities. The party is closely linked with other far-right European groups, including the British National party.

Forza Nuova said Saturday marked a “watershed moment between the old and the new”. “The people decided to raise the level of the clash,” the statement added. “The popular revolution will not stop in its path, with or without us, until the green pass is definitively withdrawn.”

Before Saturday, protests against the measure had mostly flopped. The green pass was introduced in August as a requirement for dining inside bars and restaurants and entering museums, theatres and cinemas, before being expanded in September for use on planes and long-distance trains.

Draghi condemned the violence while vowing to push ahead with the government’s vaccination campaign. “The right to express ideas can never degenerate into acts of aggression and intimidation,” he said.


Angela Giuffrida in Rome

The GuardianTramp

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