By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – Thousands of protesters across several Italian cities marched against racism on February 10, 2018, days after an Italian extremist opened fire on African migrants in the city of Macerata.

Far-Right Demonstrators From the Group Forza Nuova Clash With Police on February 8, 2017. Photo Courtesy of Fabio Falcioni.

Approximately 15,000 protestors showed up in Macerata in an effort to quell the rise of neo-fascist parties in Italy. Protesters also marched in Milan, Turin, Rome and other cities across Italy.

The protests came in response to a February 3rd attack on migrants. An Italian gunman identified as Luca Traini, opened fire in the city of Macerata in drive-by shootings that lasted about two hours. By the time he was apprehended by authorities, Traini had shot and wounded six African migrants.

Traini’s attack was racially motivated, partly in retaliation for the recent murder of a young Italian woman. A Nigerian migrant was arrested in connection with her murder.

The protests come just weeks ahead of elections in Italy.

Immigration has become a highly-discussed topic in Italy since the nation experienced  a wave of migrants starting in 2011.  It has been a key theme in campaigns.

Matteo Silvini, the anti-migrant leader of the political party known as the League, has pledged to expel thousands of migrants from Italy if elected. At a recent campaign rally, Silvini expressed his eagerness “to start expelling all the illegals one by one, to defend, above all, the women, the girls.”

At a rally, Silvini said the protest made him “ashamed as an Italian.”

Surveys show that many Italians believe that migrants are responsible for many violent crimes in the nation.

In anticipation of the government-authorized demonstration, schools and shops were closed down and mass-transit was halted. There was a heavy police presence at the protest in Macerata, which was held inside a fenced-off perimeter.

Far-right protests coincided with anti-fascist protests. In Piacenza, a city in Northern Italy, a far-right fringe group known as CasaPound clashed with police. Supporters of Forza Nuova, a neo-fascist party, clashed with police days earlier in an unauthorized demonstration.

Many marchers carried banners denouncing violence and racism. Some carried balloons bearing the names of the shooting victims.

One more coordinated anti-fascist demonstration is scheduled to take place on February 24th, a week before the election.

Francesco Piobbicchi, a demonstrator, told Reuters: “We are here because we want to be a dam against this mountain of hate which is spreading continuously, a social hate against migrants and, in general, against the poor.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Marchers Protest Racism in Italy After Africans are Shot – 10 February 2018

BBC News Macerata: Anti-Racism Protest After Migrant Shooting in Italy – 10 February 2018

CNN – Italians Protest Against Fascism Following Shooting of African Migrants – 10 February 2018

Reuters – Italians March Against Racism After Shooting Spree Against Migrants – 10 February 2018

Author: Jenilyn Brhel