Italian far-right group leaders arrested after violent clashes in Rome

Italian police on Sunday arrested 12 members of neo-fascist group Forza Nuova following violent clashes this weekend. Many have called for the organisation to be disbanded.

An Italian protestor squares up to riot police during protests against the 'green pass'.
An Italian protestor squares up to riot police during protests against the 'green pass'. Far-right thugs have been arrested. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Thousands of people gathered to demonstrate against anti-coronavirus measures in central Rome on Saturday, with some protesters later clashing with police.

Members of Forza Nuova took part in the demonstrations before reportedly wrecking premises including the headquarters of the CGIL trade union federation, which the group attacked and occupied.

Police deployed water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds over several hours of unrest, as several hundred people broke away from the main demonstration and attempted to reach minister’s office.

Italian media reported that 38 police officers were injured in the clashes.

A number of photos and videos have emerged of mostly male protestors giving fascist salutes. 

Local media also reported that among 12 people arrested were Roberto Fiore, Forza Nuova’s national secretary, and Giuliano Castellino, the movement’s chief in Rome.

“The people behind the assault on CGIL’s headquarters were quickly arrested. They had been stoking tension and violence for too long,” said MP Federico Fornaro.

READ ALSO: Anti-vax protesters in Rome target PM’s office and trade union headquarters

“Fascist violence must be stopped immediately,” said senator Andrea Marcucci.

Formed in 1997, the neo-fascist party Forza Nuova calls for an abortion ban, a total halt to immigration and the repeal of hate speech laws.

It has never achieved a score of even 0.5 percent at any election, even when allied with other far-right groups.

Mostly centrist and left-leaning politicians have now called for it to be banned.

“We’ve had enough of violence by neo-fascist groups. We will bring an urgent motion before parliament tomorrow calling on the government to dissolve Forza Nuova,” leading Democratic Party (PD) lawmaker Emanuele Fiano said.

A number of other MPs and members of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government back the move.

READ ALSO: Mussolini’s granddaughter tops polls for Rome local election

Speaking outside the union body’s wrecked headquarters, CGIL chief Maurizio Landini called for Forza Nuova to be banned and announced an anti-fascist demonstration for Saturday October 16.

“They can’t intimidate us, they don’t scare us,” he told a crowd gathered to support CGIL after the violence.

Draghi’s office denounced Saturday’s violence in a statement. “The right to express one’s ideas can never degenerate into acts of aggression and intimidation,” it said.

“The Government stands by its commitment to complete the Covid-19 vaccination campaign and thanks the millions of Italians who have already taken part with conviction and a sense of civic duty.” 

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Italy’s Meloni in Libya to discuss energy, migration

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived Saturday in the Libyan capital Tripoli for talks on energy as well as the thorny issue of migration, Libyan state media said.

Italy's Meloni in Libya to discuss energy, migration

Meloni’s trip — her second to a North African country this week — is the first by a European leader to war-battered Libya since her predecessor Mario Draghi’s visit in April 2021.

State television said the Italian premier was received by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, who heads the Tripoli-based, UN brokered Government of National Unity which is contested by a rival administration in the east.

Libya and its former colonial power Italy are key trade partners, particularly in energy, where Italian giant Eni plays a major role in tapping into Africa’s largest known oil reserves.

Meloni was accompanied by Eni chief Claudio Descalzi, who is expected to sign a deal with Libya’s National Oil Company to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.

Eni will invest $8 million in the two fields, NOC chief Farhat Bengdara said in televised remarks this week, adding they are expected to produce 850 million cubic metres of gas.

Meloni visited Algeria on Monday seeking supply deals from Africa’s top gas exporter to help reduce reliance on Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year.

During her trip to Libya, she is also expected to discuss the issue of migration amid rising numbers of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy.

Libya has been wracked by years of conflict and division since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country is a conduit for thousands of people each year fleeing conflict and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge across the Mediterranean in Europe.

Meloni’s far-right government took office in October, vowing to stop migrant landings in Italy, which reached more than 105,000 in 2022.

The central Mediterranean route is considered the world’s most treacherous, according to the International Organization for Migration, which estimated that 1,377 migrants had disappeared on that route last year.