ITALY       -        Tens of thousands of people crammed together in Rome on Saturday as part of the growing “sardines” movement against the leader of the far-right League and Italy’s former deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, and his allies. Protesters converged in Piazza San Giovanni early in the afternoon in a bid “to further shake up the country’s politics and battle xenophobia”, in what was billed as their biggest rally. “We are very happy and reached our goal,” said one of the movement’s founders, MattiaSartori, 32. “We are anti-fascist, pro-equality, against intolerance, against homophobia,” Santori told AFP, as protesters sang the anti-fascist anthem Bella Ciao. “We are weary of this culture of hatred,” the movement’s representative in the Italian capital, Stephen Ogongo, a 45-year-old journalist of Kenyan origin, told AFP. ‘‘We will no longer tolerate language that is racist, fascist, discriminatory or sexist.” The Sardines movement began in November after Santori, from Bologna, sent an urgent message to three friends late at night telling them to meet the next day. It was a couple of days before Salvini and his coalition partners, the smaller far-right party Brothers of Italy, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, were due to launch their campaign for the Emilia-Romagna regional election at an indoor sports arena in Bologna. The four friends hatched a riposte to Salvini’s boasts about filling Italy’s squares with supporters. The sports arena had a capacity for 5,700 people, and via an announcement on Santori’s private Facebook page, the group invited people to a counter-rally at Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore, with the aim of attracting 6,000 people.