*

upload_article_image

Tens of thousands anti-populist Sardines fill Roman square

Tens of thousands of members of the Italian anti-populist Sardines movement gathered in Rome on Saturday for their first national rally as people said disillusionment with traditional politics drew them to the fast-growing new group.

The movement born last month with a spontaneous rally in Bologna focuses on “inclusive” social laws and pro-migration and pro-environment measures. Its founders say they have no ambitions to become a political party but the Sardines have become a strong adversary for Matteo Salvini, the right-wing leader of the League, Italy's largest political party.

“We've filled the piazza. Mission accomplished,” one founder, Mattia Santori, told the crowd. Protesters held sardine-shaped banners and chanted the traditional anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao.”

People gather in St. John at the Lateran Square for a demonstration of the "Sardines", an Italian grass-roots movement against right-wing populism, in Rome, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP PhotoGregorio Borgia)

“It's a spontaneous demonstration that aims to change this society, with all the consequences that this brings,” said protester Daniela Mazzeo.

People gather in St. John at the Lateran Square for a demonstration of the "Sardines", an Italian grass-roots movement against right-wing populism, in Rome, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (Massimo PercossiANSA via AP)

People gather in St. John at the Lateran Square for a demonstration of the "Sardines", an Italian grass-roots movement against right-wing populism, in Rome, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP PhotoGregorio Borgia)

The spokesperson of the "Sardines" an Italian grass-roots movement against right-wing populism, Mattia Santori, talks during a gathering in St. John at the Lateran Square, in Rome, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP PhotoGregorio Borgia)

The spokesperson of the "Sardines" an Italian grass-roots movement against right-wing populism, Mattia Santori, talks during a gathering in St. John at the Lateran Square, in Rome, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP PhotoGregorio Borgia)

A demonstrator shows a sardine-shaped banner reading "Sardines of the world unite" during a gathering in St. John at the Lateran Square of the "Sardines", an Italian grass-roots movement against right-wing populism, in central Rome, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP PhotoGregorio Borgia)