Jared Leto was hit with tear gas on Saturday night while passing through an anti-vaccination protest in Rome, Italy. Leto posted about the incident on his Instagram Story, explaining that he was not participating in the protest and was there by mistake. He shared some harrowing photos of the encounter.
"Got caught in a protest in Italy. From what I gather it was about vaccine mandates / green pass. Got tear-gassed then called it a night," Leto wrote on the now-expired post. Screenshots of the Story are circulating on social media, showing heavily armored Italian police confronting protesters in the streets. Leto did not reveal his personal thoughts on vaccination, government mandates or police.
According to a report by Reuters, Italy will have a strict new vaccine mandate starting on Oct. 15. The new rule will require all workers to carry a "COVID-19 Green Pass," which will display either proof that they have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or a recent negative test result. It will also not whether or not they have recently recovered from the virus, since antibodies can give some protection to survivors for a while afterward.
Italy will be the first country in Europe to impose such a mandate, and the government there did not back down this weekend in spite of the protests. Italian police reportedly used water cannons in addition to tear gas, and Leto's photos show them in full riot gear armed with batons. Local reporters estimate that about 10,000 people participated in the protests on Saturday, though that may be a skewed representation of the local sentiment on vaccines. About 80 percent of Italians over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated, and the majority of voters polled there support the Green Pass plan.
Even so, Prime Minister Mario Draghi defended the protesters' right to demonstrate so long as it did not infringe on anyone else's safety. He issued a public statement condemning small groups of protesters who tried to force their way past police and into the capital building. Another tried to force their way into the country's main CGIL trade union.
"The right to demonstrate to support one's ideas can never degenerate into acts of aggression and intimidation," Draghi said. CGIL Maurizio Landini added: "The assault on CGIL's national headquarters is an act of fascist thuggery, an attack on democracy and on the world of work. No-one should think that they can return our country to its fascist past."