Italian uproar over fascist-themed beach near Venice

A sign at the beach at Chioggia boasts of toilets "for him, for her, for lesbians and gays" Image copyright EPA
Image caption One of the signs boasted toilets "for him, for her, for lesbians and gays"

When a national newspaper revealed that a beach near Venice was styling itself on the fascist era of Benito Mussolini, police quickly raided the club.

One sign said "Anti-democratic zone and regime" while another appeared to joke about the Nazi Holocaust, reading "Entry forbidden - gas chamber".

The Venice prefect ordered "any references to fascism" to be removed.

But now the row has spread to parliament, over a bill to tighten up laws against promoting fascism.

Under the proposals put forward by the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), propaganda praising the Mussolini or Nazi regimes would become a crime punishable by up to two years in jail. The bill is particularly geared towards material posted on the internet.

Freedom and expression

The populist Five Star movement condemned the bill as killing freedom, while right-wing parties including the Northern League said it criminalised opinion and made no sense.

Former Prime Minister and PD leader Matteo Renzi argued that it was fascism that had killed liberty rather than a law criminalising propaganda, while the PD politician behind the bill, Emmanuele Fiano, said Italian law already made clear there were limits to freedom of expression.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The beach at Chioggia, south of Venice, has space for 650 guests

But Northern League leader Matteo Salvini argued that ideas should not be put on trial. "He wants to send to jail people who sell a lighter with Mussolini's face on it," he complained.

Under existing law, Nazi or fascist actions and declarations that incite violence and discrimination can already be punished with a jail term.

'An outrage'

The Mussolini theme was clear from the entrance to the privately run Punta Canna resort, where the sign read "Rules: Order, cleanliness and discipline."

As well as fascist slogans, the beach at Chioggia, a short distance south of Venice, broadcast regular messages over speakers from its manager, Gianni Scarpa, a 64 year-old clad in a black bandana.

Before police raided the beach he told La Repubblica newspaper (in Italian) that he was "delighted to have an exemplary clientele", and that he hated filthy people and democracy.

The head of Italy's Jewish community, Noemi Di Segni, told the paper that she was concerned that journalists rather than the authorities had brought the case to light.

"The images we have seen are an outrage to the memory of victims of the Shoah [Holocaust] and an insult to the democratic institutions of our country," she said.

National partisans organisation ANPI called on tourists to boycott the beach and for the manager to lose his licence to run it.

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