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Tens of thousands at rally in Rome urge ban on extreme right

Massive demonstration comes after protests over coronavirus pass regime last weekend degenerated into riots blamed on neofascists

A general view shows people attending an anti-fascist rally called by Italian Labour unions CGIL, CISL and UIL at Piazza San Giovanni in Rome on October 16, 2021 (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)
A general view shows people attending an anti-fascist rally called by Italian Labour unions CGIL, CISL and UIL at Piazza San Giovanni in Rome on October 16, 2021 (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

ROME, Italy — Tens of thousands of Italians called for a ban on the extreme right as they rallied in Rome Saturday after protests over a tough coronavirus pass regime last weekend degenerated into riots blamed on neofascists.

Carrying placards reading “Fascism: Never Again”, the protesters in Piazza San Giovanni — a square historically associated with the left — called for a ban on openly neofascist group Forza Nuova (FN).

FN leaders were among those arrested after the Rome headquarters of the CGIL trade union — Italy’s oldest — was stormed on October 9 during clashes outside parliament and in the historic center.

“This is not just a retort to fascist ‘squadrismo,'” CGIL secretary general Maurizio Landini said, using a word used to refer to the fascist militias that began operating after World War I.

“This piazza also represents all those in Italy who want to change the country, who want to close the door on political violence,” he told the gathered crowds.

Last weekend’s riots followed a peaceful protest against the extension to all workplaces of Italy’s “Green Pass”, which shows proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test or recent recovery from the virus.

The violence has focused attention on the country’s fascist legacy.

A man holds a placard reading “yes to the vaccine” during an anti-fascist rally called by Italian Labour unions CGIL, CISL and UIL at Piazza San Giovanni in Rome on October 16, 2021 (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Saturday’s demonstration was attended by some 200,000 people, said organizers, with 800 coaches and 10 trains laid on to bring people to the capital for the event.

It coincided with the 78th anniversary of the Nazi raid on the Jewish Ghetto in Rome.

Over 1,000 Jews, including 200 children, were rounded up at dawn on October 16, 1943, and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

(From L) General Secretary of the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL), Maurizio Landini, General Secretary of the Italian Confederation of Labour Unions (CISL), Luigi Sbarra and General Secretary of the Italian Labour Union (UIL), PierPaolo Bombardieri applaud on stage at the end of an anti-fascist rally called by Italian Labour unions CGIL, CISL and UIL at Piazza San Giovanni in Rome on October 16, 2021 (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

“Neofascist groups have to be shut down, right now. But that has to be just the start: we need an antifascist education in schools,” university student Margherita Sardi told AFP.

The center-left Democratic Party, which has lead the calls to for FN to be banned, said its petition calling on parliament to do so had gathered 100,000 signatures.

Workers from the Italian Labour Union (UIL) react during an anti-fascist rally called by Italian Labour unions CGIL, CISL and UIL at Piazza San Giovanni in Rome on October 16, 2021, a week after a demonstration against the so-called Green Pass degenerated into an assault on the CGIL trade union building, led by the neo-fascist Forza Nuova party. (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

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