ROME (AP) — Rome’s mayor on Wednesday pledged an investigation into possible inciting racial hatred against the organizers of a violent protest that rejected housing Roma families in a neighborhood government-run center.
Mayor Virginia Raggi described a “very heavy climate of hatred” during the Tuesday evening protest allegedly incited by two far-right groups, Casa Pound and Forza Nuova, against the arrival of the Roma families on the outskirts of Rome.
She said the families, including 33 children, were being placed elsewhere in the meantime.
Sky TG24 video showed dozens of people setting up barricades to prevent the families from reaching the housing Tuesday, and a woman stomping on a tray of sandwiches set up for the new arrivals. As darkness fell, a car was set on fire, doused by firefighters.
Raggi blamed both Casa Pound and Forza Nuova for creating a hostile climate in the Torre Maura neighborhood, a low-income area on the eastern edge of the Italian capital.
One elderly resident who spoke on Sky TG24 without giving his name said it would be better to spread the Roma out not concentrate them in one area. Another accused Roma of carrying out robberies.
Many in Italy’s sizeable Roma community, also known as Gypsies, are Italian citizens but they still frequently face hostility if not outright discrimination.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called for a census of Italy’s Roma population and police closed a Roma camp in the capital last June in defiance of an EU ruling. This summer, a Roma boy child was shot with an air gun in Rome and left paralyzed.
Salvini on Wednesday pledged that all Roma camps would be closed by the end of his mandate as minister. He rejected violence but at the same time criticized city officials for pushing the Roma to the city’s periphery.
“Whoever integrates is welcome,” Salvini said. “Who prefers to steal will be sent elsewhere.”
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