A Holocaust survivor who has been put under police protection due to antisemitic threats was escorted through the centre of Milan by hundreds of Italian mayors and thousands of ordinary citizens behind a banner reading: “Hatred has no future.”
“I have known hatred. I have known what it means to be a reject of the society to which I believed I belonged,” Liliana Segre, an 89-year-old senator-for-life who survived Auschwitz as a child, told the crowd.
“I heard the words of hatred, hateful and insulting, and I saw with my eyes the realization of a ferocious program prepared from hatred,” Segre said.
Segre said she now looks for hope in the eyes of school children when she tells her story, and in the eyes of mayors and ordinary citizens “who came here to shout, ‘Enough hatred.’”
Segre was given a police escort last month over a stream of antisemitic posts and threats that were aimed at her after she championed a new parliamentary panel against racism, discrimination, antisemitism and online hatred.
“Let’s leave hatred to the anonymous ones at the keyboards,” she said to cheers in front of City Hall.
Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala told thousands in the crowd, including about 1,000 mayors, that such demonstrations would continue “until this climate of hatred changes.”
The mayors, wearing sashes in the Italian green, white and red, were applauded as they entered the arcaded Galleria, and the crowd chanted “Liliana” when Segre met the mayors below the central glass dome.
Thousands of ordinary Italians joined the march or cheered from the sidelines, singing the anti-fascist anthem “Bella Ciao,” as the march proceeded through the 19th century Galleria to the square in front of City Hall.
The march was organised by the Italian mayor’s association and was meant to cut across party lines. But the role of League leader Matteo Salvini in fomenting anti-migrant and racist sentiment was recognised.
Bologna Mayor Virginio Merola told The Associated Press that rising racism in Italy could be traced to the country’s long economic crisis along with the League’s provocative rhetoric.
Bologna is the largest city in Emilia-Romagna, a traditionally left-wing stronghold that faces tough regional elections next month, where Salvini is poised to make strong gains.
“There is too much racism, hatred and antisemitism in Europe, and Italy,” Merola said. “We need to react and show citizens that the way to live together is through civil cohabitation.”