Neo-fascists exploiting ‘no-vax’ rage in Italy
CANADA & WORLD
ROME — An extreme-right party’s violent exploitation of anger over Italy’s coronavirus restrictions is forcing authorities to wrestle with the country’s fascist legacy and fuelling fears there could be a replay of last week’s mobs trying to force their way to Parliament. Starting Friday, anyone entering workplaces in Italy must have received at least one vaccine dose, or recovered from COVID-19 recently or tested negative within two days, using the country’s Green Pass to prove their status. Italians already use the pass to enter restaurants, theatres, gyms and other indoor entertainment, or to take long-distance buses, trains or domestic flights. But 10,000 opponents of that government decree turned out in Rome’s vast Piazza del Popolo last Saturday in a protest that degenerated into alarming violence. It’s the mixing and overlap of the extreme right and those against Italy’s vaccine mandates that are causing worries, even though those opposed to vaccines are still a distinct minority in a country where 80 per cent of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated. Incited by the political extreme right at the rally, thousands marched through the Italian capital on Saturday and hundreds rampaged their way through the headquarters of the left-leaning CGIL labour union. Police foiled their repeated attempts to reach the offices of Italy’s premier and the seat of Parliament. The protesters smashed union computers, ripped out phone lines and trashed offices after first trying to use metal bars to batter their way in through CGIL’s front door, then breaking in through a window. Unions have backed the Green Pass as a way to make Italy’s workplaces safer. CGIL leader Maurizio Landini immediately drew parallels to attacks a century ago by Benito Mussolini’s newly minted Fascists against labour organizers as he consolidated his dictatorship’s grip on Italy. To some watching the violence unfold, the attack also evoked images of the Jan. 6 assault by angry mob of the U.S. Capitol as part of protests over then-U.S. president Donald Trump’s failed reelection bid. “What we witnessed in the last days was something truly shocking,” said Ruth Dureghello, president of the Jewish Community of Rome. Premier Mario Draghi told reporters that his government is “reflecting” on parliamentary motions lodged or backed by leftist, populist and centrist parties this week urging the government to outlaw Forza Nuova, the extreme-right party whose leaders encouraged the attack on the union office. On Monday, upon the orders of Rome prosecutors, Italy’s telecommunications police force took down Forza Nuova’s website for alleged criminal instigation. Hours after the CGIL attack, scores of anti-vaccine protesters also invaded a hospital emergency room where a demonstrator, feeling ill, had been taken, frightening patients and leaving two nurses and three police officers injured.