Written by by Staff Writer
Juliette Tsang, CNN
Fleeing a death threat made on social media against the Irish Center in the northern Italian city of Turin, owner Christine O’Sullivan left for Ireland on Saturday morning.
At 12:50 p.m. local time on Tuesday afternoon, O’Sullivan received a call warning that she would be shot dead on the spot if she did not return home.
Within minutes, the community centre, which helps the poor and immigrants in the Italian city, was ransacked and vandalized with graffiti threatening O’Sullivan and her family with violence.
The destruction and aggression would follow her there. Shortly after her return to Italy, the center was set on fire.
“All this is very inexplicable, even frightening and shameful, considering that this center has never displayed racist or discriminatory practices, but has actively supported asylum seekers,” Dominica Boppaneanu, the editor-in-chief of the Italian edition of World Socialist Web Site, told CNN.
‘How did this get away from police’
With anger mounting, citizens from around Italy marched through Turin on Tuesday night. Demonstrators chanted the slogan “Deport Il Fascism!” and demanded that the police immediately arrest the unknown perpetrator.
Milanites protest against attacks against the Irish Center in Turin Monday. Credit: Dan Mullan/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
While a group of young men are in custody, the Italian interior ministry’s national probe unit, COIMI, has yet to identify the true perpetrator or perpetrators.
In a speech on Tuesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: “Everyone knows who is to blame for what has happened and we will find out and punish whoever it is.”
But in a country with a strong fascist and nationalist past, the fact that so many people were unable to avoid being associated with this crime is just one aspect of the country’s storied fascist past.
‘Hitler looked an awful lot like Mussolini’
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Italy adopted a brutal, repressive Nazi-style “Panic Laws” and instituted mass deportations of Jews, gypsies and communists.
The government justified its controversial immigration measures by blaming a wave of communism, treason, communism and expulsion of Italians from WWII allied nations for the nation’s decline.
“The fear of communism was at the heart of both fascism and fascism. Hitler looked an awful lot like Mussolini, with an arrogant and seductive swagger, and Mussolini hailed from a family of Fascists,” Matteo Risanelli, a journalist at L’Italia Politico told CNN.
Nowadays, the “Panic Laws” have been wiped from the books and reforms were introduced to rid Italy of that era’s racist policies.
“For the left, fascism is seen as a time of poverty, suffering and internal conflict, linked to nationalism and mass immigration,” Risanelli says.
The population of Turin was full of Fascists, but after WWII, Italy’s new right-wing government of Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees.
“The left sees fascism as a historical aberration, but the right is now linking ‘anti-migrant’ sentiment to fascism,” Risanelli says.
‘Fascism is alive and well’
Some are now linking the revival of fascism to the current fascist resurgence in Italy, seen in the virulent and violent anti-immigration campaign of Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party.
On Sunday, Salvini added 500 municipalities to the list of towns which do not allow migrants to live in them. If his new government was to pass a law preventing the distribution of refugee centers around the country, more than 300 centers would be forced to close.
The far-right League won the most seats in the June 5 national election, which showed an uptick in support for far-right parties in Europe.