Calls rise in Italy to ban pro-fascism groups after rampage

AP General

Demonstrators and police clash during a protest, in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. Thousands of demonstrators protested Saturday in Rome against the COVID-19 health pass that Italian workers, both the public and private sectors, must display to access their workplaces from Oct. 15 under a government decree. (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP)

ROME (AP) — Left-leaning Italian lawmakers and politicians on Sunday called for measures to outlaw pro-fascism groups a day after anti-vaccine protesters, incited by extreme-right leaders, stormed a union office in Rome.

Twelve protesters were either detained or arrested, authorities said Sunday, including Giuliano Castellino, leader of the extreme-right Forza Nuova party. Some 10,000 demonstrators turned out Saturday to express their outrage at a government-imposed requirement that employees have a “Green Pass” to enter their workplaces starting next Friday.

The passes certify that a person has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, recently recovered from the virus or tested negative within two days.

Cries of “Giuliano! Giuliano!” rose from the crowd Saturday. Castellino, who due to past violence has been banned from demonstrations in Rome, was allegedly one of the Forza Nuova members who exhorted supporters to storm the national headquarters of the CGIL labor confederation. Labor unions in Italy have supported the Green Passes to make workplaces safer for employees.

Scores of demonstrators used sticks, metal bars and rolled-up Italian flags to batter the door and then smashed through a window to enter. Inside, computers and phones were knocked to the ground and furniture was overturned.

Later, hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police as they tried to reach the square outside Chigi Palace, home to the premier’s office and near the Italian parliament.

After the storming of the union headquarters, demonstrators had then headed down Rome’s Via Veneto, a boulevard that winds past the U.S. Embassy. As a precaution, Italian security officials decided to usher Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. Speaker of the House, out of a nearby church where she had been attending Mass, her office said Sunday.

Earlier Saturday, Pelosi had a private audience at the Vatican with Pope Francis.

Dozens of protesters on Saturday night also stormed the emergency room at the Umberto I Polyclinic, where a demonstrator had been taken after feeling ill, and it took hours to remove them, hospital officials said. Gov. Nicola Zingaretti of Lazio, the region including Rome, said the culprits appeared to have participated in the anti-vaccine protests.

In the melee at the clinic, a nurse was struck in the head by a bottle and two police officers suffered bruises, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

Among those calling for the outlawing of pro-fascism groups was Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s former premier and the new leader of the populist 5-Star Movement.

“We cannot accept these manifestations of thuggery,” Conte said.

The Italian Constitution bans any recreation of fascist parties, following the demise of Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship before and during World War II.

Conte spoke to reporters outside the GCIL headquarters, where hundreds of supporters demonstrated Sunday in solidarity. Similar demonstrations drew supporters in Florence, Bologna and Milan.

A Democratic Party lawmaker, Emanuele Fiano, said he’ll present a motion in Parliament on Monday pressing Premier Mario Draghi’s government to outlaw by decree Forza Nuova and similar movements.

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