Meloni slams ‘smear campaign’ against police forces

Premier Giorgia Meloni on Wednesday slammed the smear campaign to which the forces of law and order are allegedly subject in Italy, insisting it is “unfair”.

“I would like to recall here that in 97% of the demonstrations that have taken place in recent months there have been no policing issues,” Meloni told police union representatives during a meeting at Palazzo Chigi called after heavy-handed policing during a pro-Palestinian protest in Pisa last month.

“There have been problems in only 3% of cases, in demonstration of the excellent management of public order and your ability to protect sensitive sites,” she added.

“These are data that it is right to reiterate and underscore, because I consider the systematic campaign of denigration to which you have been subjected to to be unfair,” said Meloni.

In Pisa clashes between riot police and demonstrators during a protest that had not been properly notified left five people, including two minors, needing emergency medical treatment.

Images of some police in the Tuscan city repeatedly hitting students over the head shocked many Italians and elicited a rare rebuke from President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, who said “truncheons fail young people”.

“We felt it was important to convene this meeting, also in light of what has happened recently.

As you know, the increase in street demonstrations, especially after the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East, has resulted in a greater commitment for all of you, in terms of both quality and quantity,” continued Meloni.

“There have been more than 1,000 street protests since October 7.

Italy, unlike other nations, has not banned demonstrations in favour of Palestine, because for us it is fundamental to guarantee the full right to express any political position,” she added.

However, Meloni said the right to demonstrate “must be balanced with respect for the rules that regulate it” and with the “necessary protection of sensitive sites targeted by the demonstrators”.