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Thousands commemorate Italy’s fascist dictator in crypt

PREDAPPIO, Italy (UKTN) — Several thousand black-clad fascist sympathizers chanted and chanted in praise of Benito Mussolini as they marched to the crypt of the slain Italian dictator on Sunday, 100 years after Mussolini entered Rome and completed a bloodless coup that spawned two decades of fascist rule.

The crowd of some 2,000 to 4,000 protesters, many sporting fascist symbols and singing hymns from Italy’s colonial era, was more numerous than in the recent past as fascist nostalgics celebrated the centenary of the March on Rome. On October 28, 1922, fascists in black shirts invaded the Italian capital and launched a putsch that culminated two days later when the Italian King gave Mussolini the mandate to start a new government.

The crowds in Predappio, Mussolini’s birth and final resting place in the northern Emilia-Romagna region, were also apparently encouraged by the fact that a party with neo-fascist roots is leading an Italian government for the first time since World War II.

The organizers warned the participants, who came from as far as Rome, Belgium and the United States, not to bring the Roman salute used by the fascists or risk prosecution. Still, some couldn’t resist the temptation when the crowd stopped in front of the cemetery where Mussolini rests for prayers and greetings from Mussolini’s great-granddaughter, Orsola.

“After 100 years, we are still here to pay tribute to the man who wanted this state, and whom we will never stop admiring,” Orsola Mussolini said, cheering.

She listed her great-grandfather’s achievements, citing an infrastructure boom that built schools, hospitals and public buildings, drained malaria-infested swamps for cities, and the expansion of a pension system for non-government workers. She was accompanied by her sister Vittoria, who led the crowd in prayer.

The crowd gave a final shout of “Duce, Duce, Duce”, Mussolini’s honorary title as dictator of Italy.

Anti-fascist activists staged a march in Predappio on Friday to mark the anniversary of the city’s liberation — and to prevent the fascists from marching on the very anniversary of the March on Rome.

At the cemetery on Sunday, admirers of the Duce lined up to enter his crypt tucked away in a back corner, a handful at a time. Each was given a memory card signed by his great-granddaughters with a photo of a smiling Mussolini holding up his leather-gloved hand in a Roman salute. “History will prove me right,” the card reads.

Italy’s failure to fully come to terms with its fascist past has never been more grim as Italy’s new prime minister Giorgia Meloni tries to distance her far-right Brothers of Italy part from its neo-fascist roots. This week she denounced the anti-democratic nature of fascism and called the racial laws, which sent thousands of Italian Jews to Nazi death camps, “a low point”. Historians would also add Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II and his disastrous colonial campaign in Africa to his devastating legacy.

Now in power, Meloni seeks a moderate course for a new centre-right government, including the League of Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi. But her victory gives far-right activists a sense of justification, even as they see themselves even further to the right.

“I would have voted for Lucifer if he could have beaten the left,” said organizer Mirko Santarelli, head of the Ravenna branch of the Arditi, an organization that began as a World War I veterans group and has evolved to honor Mussolini’s memory. to take. “I’m glad there’s a Meloni government because if there’s nothing worse than the Italian left, it’s not the government that reflects my ideas, but it’s better than nothing.”

He said he would like the new government to abolish laws prosecuting hate speech and violence motivated by race, ethnicity, religion and nationality. It includes the use of decals and symbols – many of which were present in Sunday’s march.

Santarelli said the law punishes “the crime of opinion”.

“It is used as castor oil by the left to keep us quiet. If I am asked for my opinion on Mussolini, and it is clear that I speak well of him, I risk being charged,” Santarelli said.

Lawyer Francesco Munitillo, a far-right activist who represents the organizers, said the Italian Supreme Court has ruled that demonstrations are allowed as long as they are commemorative coins, “and do not meet criteria that endanger the reconstruction of the fascist party.”

Still, he said, magistrates have opened investigations into similar manifestations in Predappio and elsewhere in recent years to ensure they don’t break the law. One such case was closed without charge last week.

To avoid misrepresenting their message, Santarelli asked the troops present not to speak to journalists, as hotheads’ words are often misinterpreted. Most complied.

Rachele Massimi traveled four hours from Rome on Sunday morning to participate in the event, bringing her 3-year-old who watched the march from a pram. “It’s historic,” Massimi said. ‘It’s a memory.

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