Meloni urged to ban neofascist groups after crowds filmed saluting in Rome
Hundreds of men shown making fascist salutes during gathering outside Italian Social Movement headquarters Italian opposition leaders have called on Giorgia Meloni’s rightwing government to ban neofascist groups after a chilling video emerged of hundreds of men making fascist salutes during an event in Rome. The crowd was gathered outside the former headquarters of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a neofascist party founded after the second world war which eventually morphed into Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party. The annual gathering, on Via Acca Larentia in the east of the city on Sunday, commemorates the 46th anniversary of the killing of three militants from the now defunct party’s youth wing. In the video, which was widely shared online, the men are standing in rows making the stiff-armed salute and shouting “present” three times. A militant then shouts “For all fallen comrades!” – a typical rallying cry of neofascists. “Rome, 7 January 2024. It seems like 1924,” Elly Schlein, leader of the centre-left Democratic party, wrote on social media. “What happened is unacceptable. Neofascist groups must be disbanded, as the constitution spells out.” Carlo Calenda, leader of the centrist Azione party, said: “This is an unacceptable disgrace in a European democracy.”
The Five Star Movement said it would present a complaint to prosecutors for “apology of fascism”. Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime seized power after the “march on Rome” in October 1922, and in April 1924 secured a resounding victory in general elections before extinguishing Italy’s multiparty system. The reorganisation of Mussolini’s Fascist party was banned by Italy’s postwar constitution, which also outlawed displays of fascist ideology and propaganda. However, neofascist groups such as MSI, founded by Giorgio Almirante, a minister in Mussolini’s government, were able to circumvent the ban by using a different name and claiming to be new political forces. MSI’s political descendant, Brothers of Italy, was founded by Meloni, who came to power in October 2022. During her election campaign, Meloni tried to distance her party from its neofascist origins, saying it had consigned “fascism to history” decades ago. On Monday, Fabio Rampelli, a Brothers of Italy politician and vice-president of the lower house, said the party was “lightyears away” from the neofascist display. He said that even though Brothers of Italy had not renounced “the memory of the three boys barbarically killed 46 years ago”, it “does not take part in that type of demonstration”. “It’s not our style, it’s not our philosophy,” Rampelli added. The foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, who leads Meloni’s coalition ally, Forza Italia, said any celebration of dictatorship should be condemned.
The yearly commemoration of the Acca Larentia killings are permitted by local and regional authorities. Two of the members of MSI’s youth wing were allegedly killed by suspected leftwing militants on 7 January 1978. The other was fatally shot later the same day by a police officer after a riot broke out. All were teenagers. No one was convicted of their killings. “The astonishing thing is that this openly apologetic demonstration of fascism is allowed in Italy, whereas in Germany and in other countries everyone would have been arrested,” said Paolo Berizzi, a journalist with La Repubblica who has written extensively about the extreme right in Italy. A similar event takes place in Milan each April to commemorate a neofascist militant killed there. “They happen every year, with salutes and other fascist rituals, regardless of which government is in power,” said Berizzi. “Even when it’s a leftwing government. This is a state disgrace.” Berizzi said the numbers at such events fluctuated each year. “But with authoritative representatives of Meloni’s government unleashing fascist nostalgia on several occasions, this perhaps led to greater numbers [in Rome] this year.” Meloni presents her party as a conservative champion of patriotism and has claimed there are no “nostalgic fascists, racists or antisemites in the Brothers of Italy DNA”. However, after her government was formed, Ignazio La Russa, a Brothers of Italy co-founder and collector of fascist relics, was elected speaker of the upper house of parliament. La Russa’s father was secretary of Mussolini’s Fascist party. Galeazzo Bignami, a Brothers of Italy politician who was once photographed wearing a Nazi swastika armband, is a junior minister in Meloni’s government. Brothers of Italy has refused calls to drop MSI’s tricoloured flame from its official logo. Source