A turnout of some ten-thousand pro-family demonstrators filled the main squares of 100 Italian cities from north to south yesterday, only to meet with violent aggression from pro-gay activists, which sent several to the hospital.
The movement called Standing Sentries (sentinelle in piedi) was born in protest of a proposed law which would make homophobia a crime in Italy. The group has become famous for its silent protests. The watchers fill city squares and stand silently, reading books in protest of attacks against freedom of expression and the traditional family, based on the union of one man and one woman.
The “sentries” also protest against the judiciary, accused of introducing gay adoption through judicial fiat.
“We are a nonpartisan, non-confessional network comprised of women, men, children, elderly persons, workers, lawyers, teachers, Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox, and persons of different sexual orientation,” says the movement’s official website, “because freedom of expression does not belong to any one religion or political party.”
The silence of the demonstrators was broken yesterday by counter-demonstrators, who define the sentinels as a “homophobic and clerico-fascist” movement.
Throughout Italy episodes of intolerance towards the Sentinels resulted in verbal insults and in some cases physical violence. The pro-gay activists bore emblems of far left groups, community centers, and LGBT organizations.
In the city of Rovereto, organizers were busy preparing the site for their vigil, when they were assaulted by a group of twenty young people identified as anarchists, who demolished their material and physically assaulted the Sentinels. A girl received a broken nose, while a priest suffered a head injury and had to be rushed to the hospital.
In Bologna, where more than a hundred Sentries were gathered reading in silence, a group of militants of the Communist Refoundation tried to break the cordon formed by police officers around the protesters. Police were forced to load, while the counter-demonstrators started throwing smoke bombs and shooting bottle rockets at the sentries. As the vigil began, the counter-demonstrators unleashed a shower of eggs and bottles, hitting many, including a six- year old girl. A mother pushing a stroller with a one-year-old baby was covered with insults and spat upon.
Some 200 protesters in Turin were insulted for the duration of the vigil, called fascists and homophobes, and told to get back to their churches. Counterdemonstrators present tried to break through a police barrier but were repelled.
A silent vigil of 400 Sentries in Milan was interrupted by a group of LGBT activists with a megaphone who shouted obscenities at the protesters. Similar scenes were recorded in Genoa, Trieste, Pisa, Naples, and other Italian cities.