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March 11, 2017

NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Riot police moved in Saturday to quell violent protests sparked by the first major rally in the southern city of Naples by the anti-immigrant, anti-euro Northern League leader. Police fired tear gas and water cannons against the protesters, who tossed bottles, rocks and Molotov cocktails their way.

The protesters were a violent offshoot of an otherwise peaceful march through Naples by people opposed to Matteo Salvini, who recently traveled to Moscow to forge ties with the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Northern League has its base in Italy’s affluent north and has long criticized the tax money Rome funnels to the poorer, less-developed south. But the League in recent years has tried to make inroads in the south, capitalizing on anti-immigrant, populist sentiment and poor showings by its longtime center-right partner, Forza Italia, and more recently a drubbing at the polls by the Democratic Party. Recent polls give the League around 13 percent of the national vote.

During the rally, Salvini pressed his nationalist “Made in Italy” theme, attacking the EU and praising Russia’s efforts to crack down on the Islamic State group. “If Putin hadn’t intervened ISIS would be in Naples,” he said, using another acronym for IS.

Salvini also disparaged the protesters as entitled rich kids. “I’d like that all the delinquents who were in the piazza had the same energy to fight the Camorra,” he said, referring to the Neapolitan mob.


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