ROME (Aug. 29)
A series of violent attacks this summer against homeless people and Third World immigrants is raising concern in Italy about a rise in racism and intolerance at a time when Italy is going through difficult political, social and economic changes.
The incidents have included attacks by groups of youths on individual persons as well as mob actions against communities of immigrants.
There have been at least two minor incidents of anti-Semitism, in which swastikas and slogans were scrawled on a few Jewish shops in Rome and at the Jewish cemetery in the northern town of Merano, but otherwise Jews have not been targets of attacks.
Two Israeli students were beaten by a group of youths in July, but their attackers apparently believed they were North Africans.
The number of attacks does not approach the level of racist assaults in Germany. But the upsurge has raised particular concern here because, in addition to attacks by skinheads, the recent incidents have included assaults by people considered to be respectable citizens carrying out in vigilante fashion actions they considered to be in legitimate self-defense.
The latest attacks took place Aug. 23, in two widely separated places in Italy.
In the Adriatic beach resort town of Riccione, seven skinheads shouting racist slogans beat up a 25-year-old prostitute from Cameroon.
The same night in a small town in Sardinia, three youths shouting similar statements beat a 24-year-old Moroccan man.
A few days earlier, a group of youths attacked a Moroccan family at their home in Rome. And in Milan, a group of six youths described as being from “good families” and calling themselves the “Anti-Bum Squad” brutally beat up a homeless man.
YOUTHS TAKING MATTERS INTO OWN HANDS
Two youths staged a copycat attack on a homeless man in Rome a few days later.
“Milan has become unlivable for a series of reasons,” one of the Milan youths, a teen-ager not identified by name, was quoted by the newspaper La Stampa as saying.
The youth blamed immigrants for all sorts of woes and said, “Seeing that no one has ever been concerned to clean things up, we are doing it ourselves.”
This attitude took on a more worrisome form earlier this summer in cities in the north and south of the country.
Last month in the northern city of Genoa, there were several days of large-scale street fighting between Italian citizens and immigrants.
In the southern town of Stornara the night of Aug. 15, local citizens described as acting like a “lynch mob” rose up against hundreds of Africans based there as seasonal migrant agriculture workers for the tomato harvest.
Experts say the highly unstable social, political and economic crisis is a key contributor to this type of intolerance and racism.
Hard hit by economic recession, which has taken unemployment nationwide up to more than 12 percent, Italy is undergoing a tumultuous season of political change, including a corruption scandal involving more than 2,000 top leaders.