In the wake of far-right activity in northern Italy, the country's ruling Democrats have led a rally in Como to warn about the dangers of fascism. The Italian Constitution bans the return of fascist organizations.
Organizers chose the lakeside town of Como in northern Italy for their rally against fascism as right-wing extremists calling themselves the Veneto Skinhead Front had interrupted a voluntary organization meeting there in late November over housing for migrants.
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini led Italy until the end of World War II. Under the Italian Constitution re-written shortly after his demise, any return of fascist organizations was outlawed.
Citing the constitution, Chamber of Deputies President Laura Boldrini said on Saturday in Como that it was the "duty of all democratic forces, of civil society, of citizens" to oppose fascism.
"We're not dealing with pranks but faced with organized groups who want to threaten the order and values of our democracy (and) we must seriously" deal with the situation, she said.
"Today in Como is an important day. There are more than 10,000 of us taking part in this demonstration against all forms of fascism and intolerance," said Maurizo Martina, deputy secretary of Italy's center-left Democratic Party (DP). Former prime minister Matteo Renzi also took part.
Last week, supporters of the neo-fascist party Forza Nuova attacked the Rome headquarters of the liberal paper La Repubblica and the newsweekly L'Espresso.
Authorities refused permission for a counter-rally to be held by Forza Nuova in Como on Saturday. Instead, the party's leader told members gathered at a hotel that the Democrats that La Repubblica and L'Espresso were fostering a "climate of hate" against his party.
He defended the group's attack on the Como meeting about migrant housing calling it "a peaceful act, a demonstration against the business of immigration."
The focus of the far-right groups has been migrants arriving from North Africa. Some 114,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, down 32 percent on the same period in 2016.
The Veneto region is a stronghold of the anti-migrant Northern League party, which hopes to take power in Italy through an electoral alliance with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative Forza Italia after the 2018 election.
Opposition leaders, especially from Forza Italia, have accused the Democratic Party-led government of allowing too many migrants to stay in Italy. The DP has splintered into factions and its prospects of it winning next year's elections seem remote.
Neither Forza Italia nor the populist 5-Star Movement attended the Como rally. Recent opinion polls indicate a strong showing for 5-Star in the 2018 poll.
jm/sms (AFP, AP)