Anti-Nazi League supporters picketing a concert given by Mussolini's son Romano, a jazz pianist, at a London hotel last night clashed with members of the audience.
At around 7.30pm, when the concert started, a dozen protesters stormed through a security cordon into the reception area of the five-star Marriott hotel in Grosvenor Square. The black-tie event was sponsored by an accommodation agency whose owners have links with the far right in Italy.
One of the demonstrators, Rob Hoveman, 40, claimed: "We went in to shout our protests. All of a sudden we were greeted by about dozen smartly dressed Italians who began kicking and punching us. Some of them were armed with batons. I couldn't believe that the management stood by and let it happen." He said that one protester suffered cuts to his face. Another was arrested.
Massimo Morsello and Roberto Fiore, who run the Kensington-based agency Meeting Point, agreed to organise the concert because of their adoration for Il Duce. The concert, given by pianist Romano Mussolini and his quartet, was expected to attract neo-Fascists, despite his own non-political reputation.
Mr Morsello, who keeps a bust of Mussolini on his desk, claimed he was approached by the pianist's representatives because of his business expertise. He said he expected jazz enthusiasts to attend but admitted: "Our main interest is that we are obviously fascist ... and we have a weakness for his father."
Both Mr Morsello and Mr Fiore were active in Italian far-right politics in the early 1980s. Mr Fiore was a member of Terza Posizione, the political wing of the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei which claimed responsibility for the 1985 bombing of Bologna railway station which left 85 people dead.
Mr Fiore and Mr Morsello were sentenced in absentia to nine and 10 years in jail for subversive associations and being members of an armed gang, although both men, who are 37, still proclaim their innocence.
Romano Mussolini, 69, made his musical debut in 1956 and has appeared throughout Europe. He has played with Chet Baker and made his London debut at the Soho Jazz Festival in 1991. His daughter Alessandra, 33, is an Italian MP for the neo-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale. Another daughter, 21-year-old Rachele, is competing for the title of Miss Italy 1996.