ROME — The Italian government is under pressure to ban neo-fascist movements that took part in violent anti-vaccination protests at the weekend.
On Saturday, demonstrators trashed a union building and attacked a hospital emergency room as part of a day of violence that has been likened to the Capitol Hill riot in Washington in January. The protest left 38 police officers injured, with 12 protesters arrested including the leaders of a neo-fascist group called Forza Nuova (New Power).
The group, which does not allow vaccinated people to join, has sought to make political capital from the pandemic, infiltrating violent anti-vaccine and anti-mask protests since the early days of lockdown.
Demonstrators were protesting the introduction of a mandatory health pass for all private and public sector workers, which comes into force on Friday. Workers must prove they have been vaccinated or passed a negative test, or risk being suspended without pay.
The Democratic Party on Monday filed a motion in parliament calling for the government to dissolve neo-fascist groups, saying it is time to “end ambiguity about fascism” in Italy.
Simona Malpezzi, a Democratic senator and lead signatory of the motion, said in a statement: “Our motion asks that the government, through the instruments provided for by the laws in force, dissolve the neo-fascist organization Forza Nuova and all the other formations that refer to fascism.”
The motion said that the violent protests represented “an attack on democracy,” adding violence “as a method of political struggle can never be tolerated.”
The 5Star Movement, which is allied with the Democrats and is the largest party in parliament, also backed the motion.
A 1952 law prohibits the reconstitution of fascist parties in Italy. According to constitutional lawyers, the Interior Ministry could dissolve Forza Nuova if a court found that it was a fascist party, or the government could dissolve the movement as an urgent measure.
But right-wing parties refused to give their support to the Democrats’ move, saying that such measures should apply to all totalitarian groups, whether left- or right-wing.
Anna Maria Bernini, a senator from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, said: “The violence directed at our police, the assault on the seat of the union, have been condemned by all political forces and there should be no ambiguity against violence … But these events shouldn’t be exploited for political gain. There is no good totalitarianism and bad totalitarianism.”
Nearly eight decades after Benito Mussolini’s regime fell, fascism is still part of the political landscape in Italy.
Mussolini’s granddaughter Rachele received more votes in Rome than any other city councilor in Italy in local elections last week while running for the far-right Brothers of Italy.
Party leader Giorgia Meloni was forced to distance herself from fascism for the first time last week after allegations of funding from fascist groups emerged. She said there is “no space” in the party “for nostalgia for fascism, racism or anti-Semitism.”
Meloni also claimed that her party was the real target of the parliamentary motion. “The real intention of the left is to get rid of Brothers of Italy,” she said.