Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister, has come under fire for addressing his political supporters in the town of Forli from the same balcony where former dictator Benito Mussolini witnessed the execution of his opponents during the fascist era.
Mr Salvini, head of the far-right League Party, chose the small town only 10 miles from Mussolini’s birthplace, Predappio, in the Emilia Romagna region, to make a campaign stop for the upcoming European elections last Friday night.
As around 2,000 people stood in the rain in the town’s main square, Piazza Aurelio Saffi, Mr Salvini reportedly joked that his critics would be calling for his resignation for daring to face them from the controversial balcony where Mussolini witnessed the execution of four partisans in 1944.
During Mr Salvini’s speech, members of the crowd could be heard shouting “Fascist”, while others sang “Bella Ciao!” the folk song that became the anthem of the wartime resistance.
“Here there are no fascists, but only Italians who are proud to be Italian,” Mr Salvini reportedly told the crowd. He later Tweeted: “What a show last night!”
But Vico Zanetti, president of the local branch of ANPI, the partisan organization, condemned the minister’s appearance.
“You cannot joke about Piazza Saffi,” he said. “Here they hung the bodies of four partisans: Silvio, Corbari, Adriano Casadei, Arturo Spazzoli and Iris Versari, who was 20 years old.”