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Crowds Gather in Milan to Protest Racism

Under the banner “People First,” about 200,000 protestors rallied against racism in Italy’s northern city of Milan on Saturday. The protest took place in the region of Lombardy, a bastion of the right-wing, populist League party.

Marchers expressed their opposition to a September 2018 edict that simplifies the deportation of migrants and retraction of citizenship if they commit a serious crime. Protestors also condemned the current government’s attempt to shut out Libyan migrants coming through the Mediterranean. In response to two NGOs’ attempts to drop off migrants from the Libyan coast in December 2018, League leader and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted: “The traffickers of men and their accomplices know that our ports are closed, STOP!”

Hundreds of thousands gathered in Milan to protest racist national policies. Photo: L. Bruno/ AP

Hundreds of thousands gathered in Milan to protest racist national policies. Photo: L. Bruno/AP

Pierfrancesco Majorino, the Milan city official responsible for migrant policy, tweeted, “Salvini, count us,” touting the number of protestors.

Salvini has long been criticized for his racist remarks. In January 2019, Salvini mocked the Italian football federation’s new rule, which mandated that players leave the field and pause play if fans did not stop racist chanting after two warnings. The rule came in response to Napoli player Kalidou Koulibaly’s subjugation to monkey chants. But Salvini ridiculed the change, saying, “Now we have a Richter scale for booing. Come on, don’t make us laugh.”

Maurizio Landini, head of the Italian General Confederation of Labor, complained that the Italian government “is promoting the wrong policies, and is not fighting the inequalities.” Giuseppe Sala, Milan’s mayor, also applauded the protest, describing it as a “powerful political testimonial that Italy is not just the country that it is currently being described as."

Saturday March 2 DJ Simon Samaki Osagie leads protestors in song at an anti-racism rally in Milan. Photo:  AP

Saturday March 2 DJ Simon Samaki Osagie leads protestors in song at an anti-racism rally in Milan. Photo: AP

The party-like rally was filled with music and a variety of colorful banners and flags. One marcher declared: “We are here to show that acceptance is a very beautiful thing and that diversity is an enrichment.”