Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Rome Saturday to march in protest against the European Union’s lax immigration policies and what they described as the “invasion” of Italy by migrants.
The demonstration began at a refugee welcome center in Piazza Vittorio, Rom, and as they marched, the protesters chanted, “Stop the invasion! This is my home!”
The marchers came to announce that “homelands, nations, borders and identities” are essential and cannot be erased “with a stroke of the pen,” according to Simone Di Stefano, a candidate for mayor of Rome and vice-president of the Italian political movement Casapound, which sponsored the event.
Referring to the migrant crisis, Di Stefano said that Italy “is no paradise and the people coming in are living at the margins of society with nothing to do. We would like to help these people, but in their home countries, by creating the conditions for them not to have to leave.”
“We want a transformation of Africa into a garden from which people don’t need to flee,” Di Stefano said.
Two thousand law enforcement officers were on hand to ensure the safety of the marchers from counter-demonstrators, and despite their presence some threw eggs at the marchers as they wended their way through Rome’s streets. A group of anti-fascist counter-protesters assaulted a van carrying German citizens, shattering its windshield and side windows with blows from motorcycle helmets.
Two marchers from National Youth, the young branch of the Brothers of Italy, were attacked “with helmets and batons by about thirty armed left-wing extremists,” according to a statement by the group, which denounced the assault as “a vile and intolerable act.”
Other counter-demonstrators shouted “Damn fascists” at the marchers, while waving a red flag with the image of Che Guevara on it.
In its closing rally Saturday afternoon, Di Stefano launched a confident challenge to his political opponents, underscoring Italy’s ongoing shift to the right especially as a result of the immigration crisis.
“To our enemies I say ‘pull out, you have already lost,’ Casapound will be front and center in the future of national politics,” he said.
Also spotted at the march was the flag of Golden Dawn, a right-wing Greek political party, which has also protested the arrival of waves of migrants to its shores.
Well over a million migrants flooded into Europe in 2015, provoking the continent’s most serious migrant crisis in decades. Thousands of migrants continue to arrive in Italy every month, many of whom attempt the perilous crossing of the Strait of Sicily from northern Africa.
As Breitbart News reported last week, in April Italy overtook Greece as the number one entry point for migrants arriving into Europe, as the shutting down of the so-called Balkan route has forced prospective migrants to seek out other paths into the continent.