Extreme-right parties’ violent use of anger about Italy’s coronavirus restrictions has forced authorities to confront the country’s fascist heritage and is fueling fears that there will be another round of mobs trying force their way into Parliament.
Anyone entering Italy’s workplaces must have had at least one dose of vaccines, been treated for COVID-19, or be able to show proof of their vaccination status using the Green Pass. The pass is already used by Italians to access restaurants, theaters, and other indoor entertainment or long-distance trains and domestic flights.
However, 10,000 protestors of the government decree marched in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo on Saturday to protest against it. It was a demonstration that turned into violent violence.
The problems are caused by the mixture and overlap between the extreme right and those who are against Italy’s vaccine mandates. This is despite the fact that those opposed to vaccines remain a small minority in a country where more than 80% of all people are fully vaccinated.
On Saturday, thousands marched through Rome in support of the political extreme right. Hundreds also attacked the headquarters for the left-leaning CGIL labor organization. They were repeatedly stopped by police from reaching the offices of the premier of Italy and the seat Parliament.
After first smashing union computers and ripping out phone lines, the protestors then tried to break into offices using metal bars. The Green Pass was supported by unions as a way of making Italy’s workplaces safer.
Maurizio Landini, the leader of the CGIL, immediately drew parallels with attacks made a century ago against labor organizers by Benito Mussolini’s newly minted Fascists. This was as he consolidated control over Italy.
Some people saw the violence unfold and were reminded of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by an angry mob as part of protests against President Donald Trump’s unsuccessful reelection bid.
Ruth Dureghello (president of the Jewish Community of Rome) stated, “What we saw in the last days of our lives was something truly frightening.”
Premier Mario Draghi said to reporters that his government was “reflecting on parliamentary motions lodged by or backed this week by leftist, populist and centrist party parties. These motions urged the government to ban Forza Nuova, an extreme-right party, which encouraged the attack against the union office.
Italy’s telecommunications police took down Forza Nuova’s website Monday on orders from Rome prosecutors.
Hours later, scores of anti-vaccine protesters invaded a hospital emergency department where a demonstrator felt ill. They scared patients and left three officers and two nurses with injuries.
Rome will witness two marches in response to the Green Pass, one by Green Pass opponents and one to support CGIL.
Wednesday saw police and intelligence officers huddled together to discuss how to deal with possible violence resulting from the twin demonstrations and the mandate for the workplace virus.
Sunday will also witness a runoff for the Rome mayoral elections between a center-left and right-leaning candidate. The winner will be chosen by the leader a fast-growing, national opposition party with neofascist roots.
One of the 12 people who were arrested in Saturday’s violence is a co-founder and leader of Forza Nuova (New Force). A founder of the now-defunct extrem-right militant group Armed Revolutionaries Nuclei that terrorized Italy in 1980s are among those being held in jail. Also, a northern Italian restaurateur who defied national lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic is also in prison.
Dureghello called the “thuggery” in Rome a “grave and painful phenomenon, organized… by those who want disorder on one side and orient consensus on the other” using prejudices from Italian society. She called for an urgent investigation of “neofascist movements” and their network.
Antisemitic remarks made by Giorgia Maloni, the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy (Parlament’s main opposition party), have also upset Italy’s small Jewish community. Recently, it was revealed that Enrico Michetti, 2020, wrote that the Holocaust gets so much attention because Jews “possess bank accounts.” He later apologized for having “hurt the feelings” of Jews.
Rachele Mussolini (granddaughter of dictator) won the most votes in the first round of municipal polling in Rome.
Meloni has always evaded the demands of opponents to denounce Mussolini’s Fascist legacy.
Wednesday’s speech in Parliament saw Meloni dissociate her party from Forza Nuova and criticize the Green Pass workplace rule.
She said, “We are light-years away from any kind of subversive movements, in particular Forza Nuova.” Draghi’s broad coalition that Draghi had assembled earlier in the year to guide the country through the pandemic was then accused her of “pretending to not see that Saturday in street there were people protesting their dissent about having no government (Green) pass, and not recognising their right to work.”
Meloni “lives in ambiguity, she’s one foot in fascism’s legacy,” said Antonio Parisella (retired professor of contemporary Italian history).
It is a common belief in many Italian societies that Mussolini did “good things”. Parisella, who runs Rome’s Liberation Museum, stated that this myth is prevalent.
Donatella Di Cesare, a professor of philosophy at Rome’s University, wrote that the “hostility towards the (Green) pass” and “aversion to vaccine” are things that the “post-fascist right very well knows how to use.
Alberto Nobili, Milan’s anti-terrorism prosecutor, said this week to Radio 24 that in addition to extremist right-leaning demonstrators “under the no vax symbol”, investigators in Milan have also found “anarchist and extreme left groups” trying to exploit public anger.
Some far-right parties in Europe have joined hands with the anti-vaccine movement, from Slovenia to Greece.
France is in a more complex situation. Some far-right leaders joined forces with anti-vaccine protesters. However, Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally party in France didn’t call for such demonstrations. She is currently vaccinated. Many anti-vaccine protesters have refused to march in France with the far right.