Rome—It was 11 am in Macerata, a quiet university town in Italy’s central Le Marche region. Luca Traini, 28, was driving around looking for dark-skinned people he figured were Africans. Glock in hand, he began firing on selected pedestrians from his moving car. After he had shot eight people of color, wounding two gravely, he threw an Italian flag over his shoulders and posed in front of the town’s extravagant 1930s war monument, his arm raised in the Fascist salute, until the police came to arrest him.
The Macerata gunman—Nazi tattoo on his forehead, a copy of Mein Kampf at home; employed as a disco bouncer, foot soldier for both the neofascists of Casa Pound and the xenophobes of the League—shocked a country where gun possession is modest and drive-by killings rare. Yet the sentiment that moved him, his anti-African, anti-migrant rage, is widely shared across Italy. A Nigerian man had recently been arrested here for the drug-overdose death of an 18-year-old Macerata woman and the dismembering of her dead body. A lot of Italians had very little sympathy for Traini’s random Nigerian, Ghanaian, Gambian, and Malian victims. “Shoot the beasts on sight” was a typical call to arms on Facebook groups like Fascists United for Italy and Third Millennium Fascists.
Like just about everywhere else in the West these days, the far right in Italy is as noisy and threatening as it has ever been since the end of World War II. It’s hard to believe that for a long time after 1945, Italy was not merely constitutionally but culturally anti-fascist, despite the persistence of a party nostalgic for il Duce. Now, as general elections approach on March 4, the right’s poisonous opposition to migrants, their loud rallies and fascistic violence, dominate the campaign.
According to a group called Infoantifa Ecn, which keeps track of far-right violence here, there have been 142 incidents like Macerata since 2014, including malicious fires, beatings, and stabbings of foreigners and political opponents by Forza Nuova, Casa Pound, the League (formerly Northern League), and Nazi sympathizers. There was the menacing band of 15 neo-Nazi skinheads that recently raided a meeting at Como Senza Frontiere, a volunteer migrant-rights association; there are the “Bangla Tours” in Rome to beat up individual Bangladeshi immigrants, organized by Forza Nuova, which also holds “outreach” sessions to recruit and train high-school students for the raids. In 2016 the Nigerian Emmanuel Chidi Namdi was beaten to death by a soccer “ultra,” as right-wing extremist football fans are called, in the city of Fermo, Le Marche. An asylum seeker, he and his fiancée had fled Nigeria to escape Boko Haram the year before. And the killing did not begin in 2014: Two Senegalese men, Samb Modou and Diop Mor, were murdered by a follower of the fascistic Casa Pound in Florence in 2011. (Casa Pound is a maverick far-right party that began as a squatters group in Rome and takes its name from American poet Ezra Pound’s beliefs about usury and capitalism and his support of the late-Fascist Italian Social Republic.)