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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Angela Giuffrida in Rome

Mussolini supporters march in Italy while Meloni minister shuts down rave

Fascist sympathisers salute outside the cemetery of San Cassiano, where Benito Mussolini is buried
Fascist sympathisers salute outside the cemetery of San Cassiano, where Benito Mussolini is buried. Photograph: Francesca Volpi/Getty Images

Politicians from Italy’s leftwing Democratic party have said they will raise questions in parliament after more than 2,000 Benito Mussolini supporters converged on the fascist dictator’s home town over the weekend, as Giorgia Meloni’s government was criticised for instead focusing on shutting down an illegal rave.

Fascist sympathisers from across Italy performed the stiff-armed salute while expressing support for Meloni – whose party, Brothers of Italy, has neofascist roots – as they gathered in Predappio, the Emilia Romagna town where Mussolini was born and is buried, to mark the 100th anniversary of his march on Rome, the event that initiated Italy’s fascist era.

Events in the town organised by Mussolini’s descendants and the neofascist group Arditi d’Italia got under way on Friday, the anniversary of when Mussolini and his armed forces began their march from Milan to Rome before seizing power two days later, and ended on Sunday with a march to the Mussolini family crypt in the San Cassiano cemetery.

But Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, was focused on a different gathering in the same region – an unauthorised rave in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Modena. On Sunday he ordered the eviction of more than 3,000 people from the Witchtrek 2K22 Halloween event, a three-day party that had been due to end on Tuesday.

Police shut down a rave in Modena
Police shut down a rave in Modena. Photograph: Elisabetta Baracchi/EPA

Andrea Orlando, a Democratic party politician and former justice minister, suggested the government should have been more focused on the fascist “rave” in Predappio, which he said was “in my opinion … far more disturbing”. He asked: “Was it compliant with current regulations?”

Displays of fascist sympathy are banned under Italian law, which also forbids the reconstitution of fascist parties. Sandra Zampa, a Democratic party senator, said she would raise the Predappio issue in parliament.

“They paraded calmly and happily,” she said. “Have prime minister Giorgia Meloni and interior minister Matteo Piantedosi nothing to say about this? Is there no repentance for the violation of legislation that prohibits the reconstitution of the fascist party and apology for the regime?”

Getting tough on raves was a flagship campaign policy of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and its far-right coalition partner the League, which is led by Matteo Salvini, now the deputy prime minister.

Both leaders regularly accused the last interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, of taking a soft approach over raves, including a six-day event in August last year that Meloni said was filled with “drugs and alcohol”.

A woman holds a flag with an image of Mussolini in Predappio
A woman in Predappio holds a flag with an image of Mussolini. Photograph: Francesca Volpi/Getty Images

In her maiden speech to parliament as prime minister last week, she said Italy was “not a country for young people” and described a “growing emergency of deviance, made up of drugs, alcohol and crime” that her government planned to tackle by getting young people involved in cultural and sporting activities.

Salvini, who was interior minister in 2018-19, criticised his leftwing opponents for their defence of illegal raves and their concerns over what he called “the return of legality”. “Are we joking aside?” Salvini wrote on Twitter, praising Piantedosi’s tough line against the parties and “the thugs who dominate”.

Meloni, who in the past has praised Mussolini, told parliament last week that she never had sympathies for any type of regime, while denouncing Mussolini’s anti-Jewish laws as Italy’s “lowest point”.

In the lead-up to the general election in late September, Meloni presented Brothers of Italy as a conservative, moderate rightwing force but refused calls to remove the neofascist tricoloured-flame symbol from the party’s logo. The symbol also features on Mussolini’s tomb.

Mirco Santarelli, the president of the Ravenna unit of Arditi d’Italia, who organised the march in Predappio on Sunday, told La Stampa: “If Meloni got rid of the flame symbol, we wouldn’t vote for her any more. She has already taken a distance from nazi-fascism, because she understood that she was obliged to do so. It would be like a judge asking me if I’m a fascist, I would respond no as otherwise I’d get into trouble.”

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