The man accused of attacking Mr Berlusconi, 73, was immediately arrested, as the crowd yelled abuse at him. The suspect, Massimo Tartaglia, 42, did not appear to have any political affiliations. Police said he had no criminal record and was not among the small group of protesters at the rally, but they said that he has been treated for mental health issues at Milan’s Policlinico Hospital for the past ten years.
Italy’s ANSA news agency said that the alleged attacker had received ten years of treatment for mental problems. Police said he was wielding a miniature statue of the Duomo cathedral, the city’s symbol. Mr Berlusconi, blood streaming down his face, appeared stunned as he was taken away to hospital in a car. Hospital sources later said that Mr Berlusconi’s condition was not serious. He had two broken teeth and has suffered injuries to his nose, lips and cheek. He would be kept in overnight for observation. President Napolitano expressed his unconditional condemnation of the attack, and repeated his recent calls for an end to violent political rhetoric.
During Mr Berlusconi’s speech at the rally in Milan demonstrators shouted “buffoon” and “thief” at him. He shouted back “Shame, shame”, saying: “I am not a monster as the opposition claims — and not just because I am handsome.” He claimed that opinion polls gave him a popularity rating of 63 per cent, although the last published poll gave him 45 per cent.
Like the potentates of Iran, like the Beltway wizards of Washington, the mandarins of Wall Street, and all others immersed in wealth and its powers, there is a loss of tonal hearing, an incapacity to hear the baying of the crowds until it is too late. Silvio says his popularity rating is high; Italy seethes with anger at his cavalier behavior. During the rally which ended with his bloodied face he took off his shirt, ostensibly to show he was not wearing a bulletproof vest. Or perhaps to emulate Mussolini?
It’s an old political story, this dancing with the devil. And are some asking in Italy whether Mr Tartaglia is the only sane and brave man left, or whether he’s just nuts?
Late breaking news:
‘Staring at his bloodied hand, he told me: ‘There’s a climate of hatred, I expected this would happen,”’ Zangrillo told Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading newspaper.
Do tell, Silvio, nostro salvatore. Having spent some decades stoking the fires of resentment using his podium as politician, premiere, head of the mass media, newspapers, publishers, Mr Berlusconi would like now to play martyr. I think even Italians are not likely to buy into this latest role in their cruise-ship crooner.