ROME, Nov 15 — Italian police today raided anti-vaccine activists alleged to have used an online chat to call for violence, including “hangings” and “shootings,” against people supporting Covid-19 restrictions.
The “Basta Dittatura” (Enough of the Dictatorship) chat on the Telegram app had tens of thousands of members and was used to organise demonstrations against Italy’s so-called “Green Pass”, police in the northern city of Turin said.
The pass is proof the bearer has been vaccinated, has undergone a recent negative test or has had Covid-19, and is obligatory to access all workplaces, as well as social venues such as cinemas.
The searches, across 16 cities, targeted 17 of the most radical activists on the chat, which was “characterised by a persistent incitement to hatred and to the commission of serious crimes”, police said.
The suspects had threatened Prime Minister Mario Draghi “as well as the police, doctors, scientists, journalists and other public figures accused of ‘enslavement’ and ‘collaboration’ with the ‘dictatorship’,” they said.
There were “explicit references to ‘hangings’, ‘shootings’, ‘kneecappings’, as well as direct allusions to ‘new marches on Rome’ and terrorism”.
The march on Rome was the insurrection in 1922 by which dictator Benito Mussolini came to power, and marked the beginning of fascist rule in Italy.
Opponents of the Green Pass have denounced it as an attack on individual liberty, especially since October 15, when the government made it a requirement for access to the workplace.
However, the government insists it will help prevent further tough coronavirus restrictions in Italy, the first country in Europe to feel the full force of the pandemic in early 2019.
To date, more than 132,000 people have died of the virus in Italy. More than 84 percent of people over 12 have been fully vaccinated. — AFP