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Demonstrators and police clash during a protest, in Rome, Saturday Mauro Scrobogna/LaPressemauro/PA
Forza Nuova

Italy: Calls for far-right group ban after violence at vaccine pass protests

Forza Nuova’s website was taken offline today by order of a Rome court.

CALLS HAVE GROWN in Italy for a ban on the far-right group Forza Nuova (FN), after violent protests in central Rome against the extension of the government’s coronavirus pass.

FN leaders were among those arrested after the Rome headquarters of the CGIL trade union was stormed Saturday and police used tear gas on crowds outside Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office and parliament.

It came after a peaceful protest by thousands against the extension to all workplaces from Friday of Italy’s “Green Pass”, which shows proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test or recent recovery from the virus.

Politicians across the spectrum condemned the violence, and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the once anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) on Monday signed a motion in parliament calling for Forza Nuova to be banned.

FN’s website was taken offline today by order of a Rome court as part of an investigation into alleged “incitement to violence”.

PD leader Enrico Letta, a former prime minister, compared Saturday’s events to the storming of the US Capitol in Washington by supporters of Donald Trump.

“Neofascist groups have tried to use this difficult (pandemic) situation for acts of insurrection, nothing more and nothing less than what happened in the United States on January 6,” he said.

‘New ground’ 

Forza Nuova was created in 1997 in the tradition of the violent, extreme right-wing organisations active in Italy’s so-called Years of Lead in the 1970s, and grew into a national force in 2008.

The group is openly neo-fascist. Its current leader, Roberto Fiore, a 62-year-old father to 11 children, was found guilty in the 1980s of subversive crime and founding a far-right armed political movement.

Political expert Marco Revelli, who has written books on Italy’s far-right and far-left, said the FN attracts support by helping those on society’s margins who feel abandoned by the state, delivering food parcels to the poorest in city suburbs.

While “certainly not a credible political force”, polling at less than one percent of the vote, he said it has been infiltrating anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine demonstrations.

“The pandemic has opened up new ground,” the retired professor of political science told AFP.

On a national level, far-right parties are leading opinion polls, notably the Brothers of Italy led by Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Meloni condemned the violence and said it was perpetrated by “squadrismo”, a word used to refer to the fascist militias that began operating after World War I, saying such acts “must always be fought”.

But she was criticised by rivals for refusing to explicitly class them as fascists.

“Meloni says there’s no place in her party for those who are nostalgic (for Fascism), but it’s a different story among her electorate,” Revelli said.

Salvini said his League would not sign the parliamentary motion, while Meloni said the government already had the necessary powers to disband such groups.

© – AFP 2021

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