Italian police have said that anti-vaxxers had planned to launch armed attacks during protests against the government scheduled for this weekend in Rome. Eight people are under investigation for incitement to crime.

The country’s police on Thursday announced that its forces had blitzed through the homes and computers of anti-vaxxers across six Italian provinces, including in the cities of Milan, Rome and Venice. A video uploaded to the state police’s Twitter account showed the operation.

#9settembre In corso operazione #Poliziapostale e #Digos Milano. Perquisizioni domiciliari e informatiche a carico di appartenenti al mondo #Novax che tramite gruppo #Telegram programmavano azioni violente da mettere in atto in occasione di pubbliche

The group, who had named themselves ‘The Warriors’, were believed to be using the messenger app Telegram to coordinate their ambush at the upcoming protests in the capital and encourage attacks elsewhere. The weekend’s demonstrations are against the government’s so-called Green Pass, which requires Italians to show documents confirming their vaccination or viral status upon entry to certain venues, or as a requirement for some forms of travel.

Eight self-declared anti-vax “warriors” are now under investigation by the police for their involvement in inciting violence, among whom are five women, as per local news. According to the outlet Il Giorno, the suspects had even plotted to use weapons and DIY explosives at the demonstrations.

Telegram has been used before by Italian anti-vaxxers, with police busting the sale of 32 counterfeit Covid health passes last month. Thousands of users were willing to part with up to €500 ($590) to obtain fake documentation. Four people were placed under investigation for fraud and forgery for their suspected involvement in the deals.

Italy has been rocked by a series of protests against the implementation of the scheme. In August, Rome expanded its Green Pass to be mandatory from September 1 onwards for teachers, university students, and long-distance travel on public transport amid demonstrations against the initiative. Thousands took to the streets of Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples at the end of July to march against the health pass.

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