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No Meloni Day protest

Students with hands painted in red rally during the No Meloni Day protest in Milan, Italy on November 18, 2022. (Photo by Piero Cruciatti/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Thousands of Italian Students Declare 'No Meloni Day' to Protest Far-Right Government

Student groups organized demonstrations across the country, decrying Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's education plan.

Julia Conley

Streets in cities and towns across Italy were filled Friday with university and high school students who marched against Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's plans for the country's education system, saying the far-right leader and her fascist Brothers of Italy party are intent on discriminating against students.

After a coalition formed by the Brothers of Italy and two other political parties won a snap election in September, Meloni announced the Italian Education Ministry would be renamed the Ministry of Education and Merit, leading critics, including many students, to express concern that the government will not serve the needs of all students.

Organizers of "No Meloni Day" on Friday said they expected 100,000 students to take to the streets in cities including Rome and Milan, with the main demonstration in Rome including a march from Circo Massimo to the Ministry of Education and Merit in Trastevere.

Students painted their hands red and held banners reading, "Against the Meloni government and merit school," "Merit is only propaganda," and "This is the demo of the discriminated."

Campus groups including the Union of Students and the Student Network organized the protests.

Alice Beccari, communications manager of the Union of Students, told Rome-based news agency Adnkronos that they are fighting for five key demands: "the right to study, integrated education instead of school-work alternation, psychological wellbeing, more representation, and more rights for students."

"We are in the streets because we want to support public schools, which should be at the top of the list of thoughts of [the Italian government] given that they train the citizens of the future."

According to Ansa, students are also critical of reports that the Meloni government may introduce "streaming" in schools, separating students based on their skill levels, which "is said to be against the Italian Constitution because it discriminates against some."

Organizers denounced alleged police brutality at a student protest at Sapienza University in Rome last month, where demonstrators had chanted "Fascists, get out of Sapienza" while representatives from the Brothers of Italy spoke at an event. The police hit students with batons and video footage showed one protester being "dragged and slammed into the ground," according to Euronews.

"We have asked this new government to abandon the rhetoric of meritocracy and to try to think about a clear investment in the future of education in this country," organizers told Wanted in Rome. "To date, however, all we have received has been silence and beatings. Nobody speaks of schools and universities in the budget law that is just around the corner."

Campaigners said they believe Italian schools will face budget cuts as Meloni focuses on an education system in which students and schools are "rewarded" based mainly on merit.

"We are in the streets because we want to support public schools, which should be at the top of the list of thoughts of [the Italian government] given that they train the citizens of the future, and instead each time it is always the one that suffers the biggest cuts," Micol, a student at Severi Correnti High School in Milan, told La Stampa.

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