Wearing white masks and hoodies, around ten FN supporters stood outside the newspapers’ headquarters in Rome, waving flags and setting off smoke flares. Some of the protesters threw flares at staff, according to La Repubblica.
They carried a banner calling for a boycott of the two liberal papers and read out a series of accusations against them via megaphone.
One person, a 34-year-old FN activist, was arrested on charges including demonstrating without authorization and coercion.
On Facebook, Forza Nuova described the protest as a “declaration of war” against the left and liberal media in particular, which it accused of being run by “terrorists masquerading as journalists”.
“Today was just the ‘first attack’ on those who spread the immigrationist [sic] gospel, who serve the interests of various NGOs, cooperatives and mafias,” the party posted. “From today begins the systematic and militant boycott of those who advocate ethnic substitution and invasion.”
Today a bunch of neo-Fascists attacked our @repubblica newsroom in Rome with smoke-bombs and threatned us all as journalists after our articles about the rise of far-right in Italy. Please share to defend journalism and freedom against new fascisms.https://t.co/y4Ynn1moKC pic.twitter.com/QgmTcMrxB0— Antonello Guerrera (@antoguerrera) December 6, 2017
Politicians, unions and press freedom groups condemned the stunt, which came a week after neo-Nazis interrupted a meeting of a volunteer group that helps migrants in northern Italy to denounce, like Forza Nuova, a so-called “invasion” of Italy.
“An extremism has reared its head that is contrary to our constitutional values and our freedom,” warned Justice Minister Andrea Orlando, “and I believe that the Italian state and society must affirm the values on which our constitution is based.”
Interior Minister Marco Minniti, speaking at La Repubblica’s office later on Wednesday, also cautioned against underestimating the threat from far-right extremists, “because the history of Europe and Italy is full of underestimations”.
Matteo Renzi, the centre-left Democratic Party’s candidate for prime minister in Italy’s general election next year, tweeted that “they don’t scare us”.
On the right, the Forza Italia and Fratelli d’Italia parties defended the freedom of the press, while accusing La Repubblica of leftwing bias. They were echoed by the leader of the far-right Northern League, Matteo Salvini, who said he preferred to counter La Repubblica “with ideas and proposals, not with smoke and threats”.
La Repubblica and L’Espresso, which share a publisher, said in a statement that they could not be intimated and would continue to report on Forza Nuova and all political parties.
The leader of Forza Nuova, meanwhile, said that he meant “political war” and not “war full stop”. In an open letter addressed to the interior minister, Roberto Fiore claimed that his supporters were themselves under threat from “anarchists” stirred up by the liberal press.
His group has announced plans to rally in Como on Saturday, despite being denied permission by the northern city’s police. The group insisted it would meet anyway to counter an anti-fascism demonstration by Democratic Party activists planned for the same day.
The party called the protest in response to the incident at the volunteers’ meeting last week, which took place in Como.
Police have identified several of the men who interrupted the meeting and are considering charging them with coercion. Officers raided the homes of several members of the group on Thursday morning.
The government recently highlighted “the rising phenomenon of threats from neo-Nazi and neo-fascist groups” against journalists in Italy, nearly 200 of whom are currently under police protection.
A Forza Nuova demonstration in Rome last month. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP