People in the southern Italian city of Naples have clashed with police in protest against the presence of far-right leader Matteo Salvini.
Riot police fired tear gas to disperse people demonstrating in Naples on Saturday as Salvini, the head of the Northern League party, was to stage a rally in the city.
Some reports described the protest by members of Neapolitan anti-fascist groups as huge.
Arrests were reported as protesters threw projectiles at police officers.
Reports said a group of two to three hundred people broke away from a peaceful march in the west of the city and started clashing with police.
Images showed people in black hoods and helmets uprooting street signs and setting fire on dust bins.
It was Salvini’s first visit to Naples, a less-developed city blamed by Salvini for sucking out Rome’s tax money. The public anger at the visit also comes against a backdrop of an anti-southern stance adopted by Salvini and his predecessors in the Northern League.
Anti-riot policemen arrest a man during clashes with a group of rioters in Fuorigrotta district during a rally organized by citizens and social community against the political meeting of Matteo Salvini, the head of Italian far-right Northern League party in Naples, March 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris had demanded Salvini’s speech be canceled but Interior Minister Marco Minniti asked local police to ensure the security of the rally. People occupied the convention center on Friday, when Salvini was due to speak but authorities said the rally could go ahead without problem.
Salvini has become the dominant voice in Italy
’s far-right by promoting the nationalist, anti-immigration narrative of peers in other European countries. The 42-year-old has even eclipsed powerful figures such as former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his party Forza Italia.
Matteo Salvini, the head of Italian Northern League party (Photo by AFP)
He has repeatedly criticized Italy’s policies for allowing multinationals to buy Italian companies while censuring the government for being too lax on immigrants.
Many see him as a leading factor in the resignation of former democrat Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who stepped down last year after his proposed reforms in the constitution failed to garnet public support. He seeks to win Italy’s next general elections in 2018 and become prime minister.