Remove Indro Montanelli's statue in Milan: the Sentinelli write to Beppe Sala

The Sentinelli movement in Milan is asking Beppe Sale to remove the controversial Indro Montanelli statue from the ramparts of Porta Venezia. But there is much criticism.

The public discussion on monuments is also ignited in Italy and invests the already debated monument to journalist Indro Montanelli (Fucecchio, 1909 - Milan, 2001) placed in the public gardens dedicated to him in Milan, at the bastions of Porta Venezia: the historic founder of Il Giornale has been at the center of a controversy for years due to the fact that in 1936, while taking part as a volunteer in the war in Abyssinia, he contracted a madamate marriage with a 12-year-old Eritrean girl. The madamato was a form of temporary marriage (complete with expiration date) through which Italians joined more uxorio to local (often very young) girls, quite common among our compatriots who went to the African colonies, and already at the time viewed very poorly by the authorities (although not for today’s reasons: in fact, the fascists considered it a threat to the integrity of the Italic race, as well as a source of venereal diseases), and from 1937 strictly forbidden.

The monument, installed in 2006, has been at the center of controversy for years, so much so that it has already been daubed in the past: it happened on March 8, 2019, when members of the Non una di meno movement daubed it with pink paint. Montanelli, in fact, has never regretted having had a “colonialist” relationship with a 12-year-old girl when he was in his mid-20s, and he has always justified himself by saying that these were special times and circumstances, and that madamato was a custom. Because of this, the monument is once again the subject of discussion: the Sentinelli di Milano, a secular and anti-fascist movement, wrote yesterday to the mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala, to request the removal of the statue.

“In Milan,” the missive reads, “there is a park and a statue dedicated to Indro Montanelli, who until the end of his days proudly claimed that he bought and married a 12-year-old Eritrean girl to be his sex slave during the fascist regime’s aggression against Ethiopia. We believe it is time to say enough to this offense against the city and its democratic and anti-racist values, and we call on the entire council to consider removing the statue, to name the Public Gardens after someone who is more worthy to represent the history and memory of our city’s Gold Medal of Resistance.”

“After the barbaric killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis,” the text concludes, “the protests that have arisen spontaneously in every city with millions of people in the streets, and the tearing down in Bristol of the bronze statue dedicated to African slave trader and merchant Edward Colston by Black Lives Matter anti-racist protesters we strongly call on every city government to rethink the symbols of its territory and what they represent.”

The Sentinels’ request won the approval of the Arci, which joined the demand, but had little success in the city council. Some Pd councilors said they were open to the discussion, but shutting down enthusiasm was group leader Filippo Barberis, who said it would be a mistake: “I am very, very far away culturally from these attempts to moralize history and memory, which I find wrong and dangerous,” Barberis said. “Attitudes that have more to do with the category of censorship than critical reflection and that have very little to do with the sensibility of our city, which has always been confronted with the contradictions and complexity of society and its characters. Montanelli made a serious, inexcusable mistake. However, if this were the criterion for removing statues or changing the names of streets, we would have to review 50 percent of the world’s toponymy.” Barberis added that “it would also be incomprehensible to devote time to the subject in the municipality at this very delicate stage where in our heads and hearts we should have, and to all intents and purposes do have, quite other priorities and projects.”

Of course, right-wingers are also against it. Fabrizio De Pasquale (Forza Italia) comments, “the names of anti-racism want to remove Montanelli’s statue. Sala won’t listen to the Sentinelli champions of intolerance and political hatred,” and in a video shot right in front of the statue he calls Montanelli “the greatest Italian journalist, an example of freedom, independence and great attachment to his profession,” and brands the request as “a great pindaric flight birthed by truly sick minds, truly conditioned too much by ideology, and imbued with true intolerance, true fundamentalism,” to conclude by saying that “Indro Montanelli is not to be touched.” Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, also intervened on the issue, writing on social media, “Hands off the great Indro Montanelli! What a shame the left, long live freedom.” Criticism, finally, from the Catholic formation “Milano Popolare”: its leader Matteo Forte defines the Sentinelli as the “Taliban of anti-fascism,” and spurs them to “brush up on history” because “they will find out that in the city that won a gold medal for the Resistance, the journalist was taken prisoner and led to San Vittore by the Nazis only to be freed by Catholic patriots.”

From the junta, however, no comment has yet come.

In the photo: the monument to Indro Montanelli.

Remove Indro Montanelli's statue in Milan: the Sentinelli write to Beppe Sala
Remove Indro Montanelli's statue in Milan: the Sentinelli write to Beppe Sala

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