ROME, Jan. 2 (JTA) — Vandals on New Year’s Eve spray-painted swastikas and racist and anti-Semitic slogans on the walls and shutters of shops and banks in Mentana, a small town near Rome where no Jews live. The incident came only a few days after vandals last weekend desecrated tombs in the Jewish part of one of Rome’s main cemeteries. Both incidents are believed to be the work of neo-Nazi skinheads or other fringe groups. “For Mentana, it’s not the first time,” Mayor Luigi Cignoni told the Rome daily Il Messaggero. “Something like this happens more or less every year, but never to such an extent as this.” Cignoni said the vandalism was done by a “fringe of disaffected people who are against shopkeepers and banks because, according to them, they are the symbol of the accumulation of money and of capitalism.” No Jews live in Mentana, “so the anti-Semitic slogans are without meaning. It is pure political hatred,” he said. The cemetery desecration was condemned by Italy’s political leadership and the Vatican. Athos De Luca, a Green Party senator, introduced a motion in Parliament calling for greater security to be instituted at Jewish cemeteries and for a new law mandating severe penalties against anyone convicted of desecrating any type of cemetery.
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