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A shoal of force: Italy's 'sardines' movement takes on the far-right

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A shoal of force: Italy's 'sardines' movement takes on the far-right

A shoal of force: Italy's 'sardines' movement takes on the far-right

A new movement, calling itself the 'sardines' is pitting a silent majority against the populist, anti-immigrant politics of Italy's far-right leader Matteo Salvini.

David Doyle reports.


A shoal of force: Italy's 'sardines' movement takes on the far-right

A new movement has swum into Italian politics, pitting a silent majority against the rise of anti-immigrant populism.

They're calling themselves the "sardines" - and they're posing a problem for far-right leader Matteo Salvini.

The movement started in the wealthy northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna which has been ruled by a succession of leftist parties since the end of the Second World War.

But elections are due in January and Salvini - whose rightist bloc has won all five regional ballots that took place in 2019 - has vowed to quote "liberate" the left's historic fortress.

In response, four young Italians dreamed up the 6,000-Sardines group, hoping to draw 6,000 people to a rally in Emilia-Romagna's capital Bologna.

More than that number double turned up - packing into the main square like, well, sardines.

A few days later there were 7,000 defying the rain in Modena and at the weekend 8,000 in the historic Reggio Emilia.

(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) PROTESTER FROM REGGIO EMILIA, ANNA CACIACO, SAYING: "I came here because I am against populist politics.

I believe that politics must be about sharing and not populism and exclusion because that is what Salvini's policies bring." Mattia Santori, one of the "sardines'" four founders, said they want to show that populism can be defeated with ideas, adding that, like a shoal of sardines, there are far more of them than the "sharks".

Salvini seems to relish that comparison.

(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) LEAGUE LEADER, MATTEO SALVINI, SAYING: "I fondly remember the fishermen of Lake Trasimeno (a lake in Umbria), a wonderful community.

I will be back there to eat some freshwater sardines." He's ironically proposed a new logo for his League Party, "Kittens with Salvini", and encouraged his followers to post pictures of their furry friends eating sardines.

But he does not yet seem to have an answer to the movement on the ground.

He's held off from the holding the daily street rallies in Emilia-Romagna that have served him well in previous regional votes - apparently deterred by the prospect of counter rallies.

Even worse for Salvini, the sardines appear to be multiplying.

The group's newly minted Facebook page lists dozens of rallies over the coming weeks - across Italy and as far away as New York.

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