Legalisation of vigilante patrols prompts outcry in Italy


SILVIO BERLUSCONI’S government, which has already put several thousand soldiers on the streets of Italy, will today legalise vigilante patrols and set out the guidelines under which they will operate.

The plans prompted an outcry from opposition politicians and police unions, but got a mixed reception from Italy’s mayors, who must decide whether they want law enforcement volunteers in their towns. An overwhelming majority of those in favour run cities in the north, where the anti-immigrant Northern League has long argued for wider use of vigilantes.

Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the Northern League, denied the plan was to introduce vigilantism: “The decree does not create [vigilante] patrols; it regulates them.”

After first rejecting the scheme, Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, a former neo-fascist, appears to have embraced it. The head of his council’s security committee, Fabrizio Santori, said vigilantes in fluorescent jackets would be deployed in parks, outside schools and at tourist sites.

Taking advantage of a gap in legislation, volunteers have formed groups to carry out patrols in cities including Milan, Padua, Parma and Bologna. Last month, vigilante groups from the left and the right clashed violently in the Tuscan town of Massa Carrara.

The rules will restrict groups such as the Italian National Guard, which is being investigated by a prosecutor in Turin. The guard, which claims 2,000 members, has a reconnaissance aircraft and a uniform, complete with armbands, reminiscent of the Nazi SA (Sturmabteilung).

The leader of Italy’s biggest opposition group, Dario Franceschini of the Democratic party, called the use of vigilantes “demagogic and dangerous”. – (Guardian service)