Italian neo-fascists draped a pro-Mussolini banner over a Rome bridge on Thursday night as the country marked the 100-year anniversary of the fascist leader’s ascent to power.
The banner, hung in front of the Colosseum, featured a portrait of Benito Mussolini in military uniform, The Guardian reported, alongside another banner with the words “100 years after, the march continues.”
Italian newspaper La Republicca said the banner was organized by the National Movement, a far-right group founded by Giustino D’Uva, an individual described by the newspaper as “an old acquaintance” of Italian neo-fascism.
According to the report, 1,000-2,000 fascists were expected to gather in Rome later Friday, where they were to participate in commemorative events organized by Mussolini’s descendants, including two masses led by an “ultra-fascist excommunicated priest.”
On October 28, 1922, Benito Mussolini’s Fascist blackshirts entered Rome, marking the start of a dictatorship still viewed today with some indulgence in Italy.
The centenary of the so-called March on Rome on Friday comes days after far-right leader Giorgia Meloni was named Italy’s new prime minister, renewing debate on the legacy of fascism in the country.
— italian (@Italian) October 28, 2022
Although Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party has neo-fascist roots, in her first speech to parliament this week she insisted she had “never felt sympathy or closeness to undemocratic regimes… including Fascism.”
As recently as 2013, then-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said the racial laws against Jews were “the worst mistake of a leader, Mussolini, who in many other ways had done well.”
From 1938, the Mussolini regime began stripping rights from Jews, banning them from public office, forbidding intermarriage, permitting the confiscation of their property, and eventually their internment.
Under the dictator’s regime, which ran until July 1943, more than 7,000 Italian Jewish men, women, and children were murdered in the Nazi death camps.
In her speech on Tuesday, Meloni called the race laws “the lowest point in Italian history, a shame that will mark our people forever.”
Berlusconi’s remarks showed “the extent to which Italy still has trouble seriously accepting its own history and its own responsibilities,” the head of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna, said at the time.
In Predappio, a small town in northern Italy where Mussolini was born and buried, his tomb in the family chapel attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
“This memory is certainly tolerated, not just in Predappio,” said analyst Bruno. And in recent years, he added, this tolerance of Fascism had increased.
“We are all heirs of Il Duce,” said Ignazio La Russa, a member of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party. Recently elected speaker of the Senate, he was speaking on television only last month.
La Russa, who collects Fascist memorabilia including busts of Mussolini, had days earlier been forced to condemn his brother for giving the fascist salute at the funeral of a far-right activist.