Anti-semitic Banner at Milan Game Activates Italian Hate Crimes Law

An anti-Semitic banner displayed at a soccer match in Milan on Feb. 25 activated a new law aimed at preventing racism and violence at soccer games. Italian law-enforcement authorities say it is the first of what may be numerous applications of the decree.

The law was passed in December, because of increasing racist rowdyism by right-wing soccer fans. It was invoked for the first time on Feb. 27, when the authorities in Milan banned 55 hardcore Skinheads from attending soccer games there for one year.

Skinheads are shaven-headed young thugs, many of whom sport Nazi-like regalia and attack or harass Jews, blacks and other minorities.

“I am very worried about what I see in the stadium, a real escalation of incivility,” said Arrigo Sacchi, coach of the Milan team, who was interviewed by the newspaper La Repubblica.

Sacchi, mindful of the fact that Italy will be hosting the World Cup soccer tournament on June 12, said he was shocked and outraged when an anti-Semitic banner was draped over a girder high above the stadium during a match between Milan and Naples.

A man was photographed climbing the girders to hang it. According to La Repubblica, the banner hung for a long time at the stadium without anyone bothering to remove it.

The Milan team sharply condemned the “deplorable episode,” which it blamed on “the incivility of a violent minority of the fans.”

The Italian Jewish Youth Federation issued a statement, saying there was no place for racism at sporting events. It urged the authorities to exert pressure until the perpetrators are punished.

At least two motions were introduced in Parliament as a result of the episode. The governing body called on the interior and entertainment ministers to block “banners that exalt hatred, violence and racism” from sports stadiums.

It also asked that the soccer federation “introduce appropriate disciplinary measures that would require the club to immediately remove placards or banners that are offensive or incite to violence, even if it means delaying the start of the match.”

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