Naples Sees Outbreak of Racial Violence
Posted on: 2008-05-15 14:06:02
Gypsy shanty towns burn in Naples as Italian police swoop on illegal immigrants
Richard Owen in Naples
Italian police began a nationwide round-up of nearly 400 illegal immigrants from the Balkans and North Africa today in the midst of a series of arson attacks on Roma gypsy camps in the suburbs of Naples.
The first step in a drive on crime promised by the new centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi targeted temporary encampments on the outskirts of cities from Naples to northern Italy. Some 118 people held in the operation were ordered to be expelled immediately for offences ranging from drug dealing to prostitution.
But in Naples local people have anticipated the new policy, taking the law into their own hands.
This week’s assaults on Roma shanty towns by scores of youths on scooters wielding iron bars and throwing Molotov cocktails were sparked off by the capture of a seventeen-year-old Roma girl who last weekend entered a flat in Ponticelli and tried to steal a six-year-old baby girl. Chased by the mother and neighbours, she had to be rescued by police from being lynched.
Naples erupted in fury, with local women leading the marches on the Roma camps to the chant of “Fuori, fuori [Out, out]” and “go home, dirty child stealers”.
Night after night young men — allegedly acting on the orders of powerful local clans of the Camorra, the Naples Mafia — have set the sites ablaze, blocking attempts by the fire brigade to put out the fires, with exploding gas canisters competing the destruction. The women jeered at the firemen, shouting, ”You put these fires out, we start them again”.
Plumes of smoke were still rising today from the smouldering, blackened ruins of a Roma gypsy camp attacked and burnt to the ground by local vigilantes in Ponticelli, a rundown industrial suburb in the east of Naples in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.