Book launch at London Metropolitan University cancelled over publisher Altaforte's far-right links
PUBLISHED: 12:44 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:57 09 August 2019
A publisher linked to an Italian far-right group had a book launch cancelled at the last minute by London Metropolitan University.
Altaforte had booked a room at the Holloway Road campus for the July 25 event promoting a book on rightwing deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.
In Islington for the event were author Chiara Giannini, a journalist, and Altaforte founder Francesco Polacchi, an activist for fascist party Casapound who openly calls himself a fascist.
It was to be hosted by UK Casapound offshoot Vortex Londinium, but London Met got wind of the booking and stopped it an hour before it was due to start, saying it breached its "anti-discrimination policy."
A university spokesperson explained: "The event was arranged by an external company that has no affiliation with the university and was hiring space in our building as a private client. We are reviewing our due diligence process for venue hire."
Vortex was able to hold the launch at The Lamb pub nearby, but when staff there were informed about the nature of the event it stopped serving the 25 or so guests.
Afterwards the pub wrote on Twitter its staff were "horrified", and vowed to donate proceeds from the drinks bought to anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate.
The event had also been billed as a discussion on the "censorship attempt to the freedom of speech in Italy", in the wake of Altaforte being banned from Turin book fair Il Salone del Libro in May, where it was promoting the same book.
Its stall was dismantled at the request of local government after protests, and days after Mr Polacchi had told Italian news agency ANSA: "I am a fascist. Anti-fascism is the real ill of this country."
After the event, Mr Polacchi told the Gazette Altaforte was being silenced and labelled it a "rather ridiculous political persecution".
He said: "Some of my statements had been used as an excuse to reduce everything to fascism, without observing what our literature proposal really is about. And the echoes of this true censorship even arrived to London.
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"We are willing to challenge ourselves and put our ideas out there, always, in any case, and with everyone. We'll always choose a confrontation based on proposals and concepts, and we will never bow down to those who are only able to deny the political and cultural spaces of others. Whether in Italy, in England or in every other corner of the world."
Vortex Londinium wrote on Facebook that despite "crook-style intimindation" they were able to hold the event in a "better place".
"As usual we defy censorship and win," they wrote.
The post also criticised the "political walking deads" - anti-fascist group ANPI, which regularly campaigns against Casapound.
Simone Rossi, chair of Anpi's London branch, said: "The fact a far right Italian organisation [Vortex] feels the need to set up a base in London is clearly worrying.
"Especially when it is attached to a group [Casapound] that calls its members "third millennium fascists" and appears intent on using London as a platform to establish links with similar minded organisation in the rest of Europe.
"As for the book, the fact it is being published by an editor who is a self-proclaimed fascist and calls Mussolini the best statesman Italy has had is equally a matter for concern.
"Fascism is not an idea, is a crime. It's fascism that doesn't allow for pluralism of ideas and freedom of expression."
Vortex, who were seen handing out leaflets at Clerkenwell's Little Italy parade last year, claimed the cancellation would have "consequences".
Ms Giannini also reportedly told Italian press she and the publisher would submit a claim for damages.
The university said it couldn't comment on any legal dispute.
Vortex Londinium and Altaforte have been contacted for comment.