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ITALIAN police used water cannon and tear gas to push back neofascist activists on Saturday as they demonstrated against a government drive to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all workers.
The main group of protesters in Rome tried to break through police lines to reach Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s city centre office, the Chigi Palace, while a separate group tried to smash their way into the headquarters of the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) trade union body with the use of sticks and metal bars.
Opponents of Italy’s Covid-19 green pass, which proves that somebody has either been vaccinated, has recovered from the virus, or has received a recent negative test, say it tramples on freedoms and is a back-door means of forcing people to get vaccinated.
They are backed by far-right neofascist groups which local politicians accused of orchestrating Saturday’s violence.
About 10,000 people took to the streets of the Italian capital as part of the demonstrations, with many chanting: “Freedom! Freedom!” as some looked to break past police in riot gear deployed to guard access to the PM’s office.
CGIL has accepted the green pass system and condemned the attack on its offices.
Union leader Maurizio Landini said: “The assault on CGIL’s national headquarters is an act of fascist thuggery, an attack on democracy and on the world of work.
“No-one should think that they can return our country to its fascist past.”
Under the pass system, any worker who fails to present a valid health certificate from Friday will be suspended with no pay, but they cannot be sacked.
The pass is already mandatory to enter museums, theatres, gyms and indoor restaurants, as well as to take long-distance trains and buses or domestic flights.
Some 80 per cent of people in Italy over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated.
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