A wave of protests against Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini has swept across Italy, the protests coming as a reaction to the removal of a banner that criticised the League leader.
The new wave of activism against the ultra-nationalists came following an incident in the northern city of Bergamo when firefighters were ordered to remove an anti-fascist banner against Salvini. The removal of the banner, which merely read “you’re not welcome”, was spread across social media through photos and videos of the incident.
Raising questions about freedom of expression and the rights to peaceful protest, the removal prompted hundreds of anti-fascist activists to hang banners in the city of Campobasso ahead of a Salvino rally on Wednesday, with protest continuing on Thursday in Naples.
Salvini has repeatedly insulted southern Italians as “terroni”, an insult equivalent to “rednecks”, “yokels” or “hicks”. Italians have since been sharing images of their favourite banners on social media under the hashtag #Salvinitoglianchequesti (Salvini, take these down as well) with many proclaiming slogans such as “Salvini go home!”, “Naples doesn’t want you!” and “No to the minister of hate”.
Many banners made biting remarks about the amount of time that Salvini has actually spent working during his time in office (17 days), others highlighted the 49 million euros of misspent public money that his party has to pay back. However, perhaps the best and most creative banner was one that portrayed Salvini as an immense skid mark.
Holding a further rally yesterday in Milan alongside France’s Marine Le Pen and the Alternative for Germany party, the protests come as Salvini and the League seek to capitalise on the European Elections. Salvini is expected to be a big winner in the May 23-36 elections and is currently polling at around 31% of the vote, a number that would win 25 seats. The rise of the League is a huge leap from 2014 when they polled a mere 6%.
It’s expected that a major success for Salvini in the elections will see the Italian deputy Prime Minister further promote himself toward the “leadership role” in a unified European far-right.