The special terrorism and organised crime unit of the Italian Carabinieri detained 24 members of the Pro-Independent Veneto group in Venice, occupying a Caterpillar bulldozer that was handcrafted to form a tank with a small 12mm cannon.
The Pro-Independent Veneto had hoped to occupy St. Mark’s Square in Venice during the celebration of the famous Carnival of Venice, to perhaps re-enact the action of a small group of pro-secessionists that on the night of May 8-9, 1997 occupied said square with an armoured vehicle without firing.
Among those arrested is Franco Rocchetta, founder of the Veneto League and its president from 2001 to 2004, along with other twenty or so members, even though according to a report from the Carabinieri there are around 50 people being investigated for the incident.
The secretary of the Northern League, Matteo Salvini, immediately responded with a declaration of support for the detainees: “They help illegals; they release delinquents from jail and arrest those who desire independence. This is insanity. If the State thinks they are frightening someone, they are wrong,” Salvini wrote on the social networks.
A recent informal referendum – in which you could vote in person, on Internet or by phone – 89% were in favor of independence; however, due to such an unusual way of voting, a further investigation determined that the count was false.
Founded in 1980, the Veneto League was a founding member of the Northern League in 1991 together with the Lombard League (founded in 1984 by Umberto Bossi) and other North Italian regional leagues. In the last regional elections, that took place in 2010, the party took 35.2% of the votes in Veneto, and one of its members, Luca Zaia, was elected regional president with 60.2% of the votes. Since 2008, Flavio Tosi has presided over the Veneto League.