Tens of thousands of people have rallied in the Italian city of Florence to protest against the far-right policies of the country’s League Party and its leader, former interior minister Matteo Salvini.
The demonstrators marched through the streets in central Florence and gathered in the city’s Piazza della Repubblica Square on Saturday as part of the latest series of youth-driven protests dubbed “Sardine Movement.”
Italy’s Sardine Movement — founded on November 14 by four youth activists in protest against Salvini’s anti-immigrant policies — has staged around 10 demonstrations in the north of the country over the past 15 days.
Organizers claimed that 40,000 people had turned out for the Florence protest, a sharp increase from the 15,000 they said had attended their first rally.
Singing the anti-fascist song "Bella Ciao," the demonstrators shouted "Every sardine has the right to exist!"
Salvini’s League Party achieved a historic victory in regional polls in late October and is now campaigning hard to try to capture other left-wing bastions in the country’s northeast.
Italy’s regional elections are scheduled for January 26, and the polls suggest the League's candidates are engaged in a tight race with the current center-left government.
Salvini has said he wants to conquer the regions one by one to bring down the current coalition between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and force early elections.
Other protests are due to take place in the major Italian cities of Turin, Milan, Naples, and Rome. The Rome rally is scheduled for December 14, and organizers hope they can draw one million people to the protest.
Polling agency Index Research said in a recent survey that 40 percent of Italians considered the Sardines as “Salvini's most dangerous enemy,” above M5S and the PD.