Antigypsyism in Italy
The Roma and Sinti minority in Italy suffers every day all kinds of verbal and physical violence, which is very rarely reported.
In 2013 in Naples, a woman who was irritated by a Roma mother and her baby standing in front of the palace to sell handkerchiefs threw muriatic acid from the balcony disfiguring the twenty months old baby. Two years ago Roberto Costelli, a former paratrooper, approached two camper vans of two Roma families with ten children, shot on them and killed one person. He said: “I’m not a racist; I killed him because they litter”. Not to mention pogroms on camps from Turin to Naples caused by collective hysteria: in Turin after the false charge of rape of a young girl, in Naples after the fake kidnapping of a child.
In the last four months alone we know of 3 cases of violence against Roma and Sinti. On 4 November 2016, Paolo Cagna Ninchi, president of the association Upre Roma in Milan was physically attacked by a person in his house because his wife is a “gypsy who goes on television” (she is the activist Dijana Pavlovic).
On 22 December 2016 an 8-year old Roma child with his friend played football on the lawn around the Roma camp and hit a sheep with the ball. The shepherd arrived with a gun and a bamboo cane. He fired a shot into the air to scare the two children, then chased them for several meters and hit the boy with the cane, gouging out an eye. The child can no longer use the eye.
In the last days there was much talk about a video showing two employees of the Lidl supermarket in Follonica who locked up two Roma women in the cage in which the supermarket keeps the scraps. While the women scream of fear, the two employees mock them, film them and then post the video on Facebook. The post got 200,000 views and more than 30,000 “likes” and comments that incite violence. Matteo Salvini, secretary of the Lega Nord, shared the post asking “what has this unfortunate to shout about” and then launches the hashtag “#ruspa” (caterpillar as a symbol of evictions of Roma camps).
The first thing that strikes us about this case are the feeble and rare condemnations by the Italian institutions. Our second worry is that the public debate shows on the one side “youngsters” or “workers” who did wrong to post the video on the web, and on the other side “gypsies” or “thieves”. This is particularly shocking in this case, where the assault has been done by two men against two women in a state of visible fragility.
When it comes to Roma and Sinti, the public is no longer able to recognize and condemn a clear act of violence.
It is clear that the Italian society is deeply afflicted by racism against Roma and Sinti – racism in the form of physical violence as well as verbal. Since 2008, antigypsyist propaganda manipulates politics and the media and results in the dehumanization of our community. Even “good people” – mothers and fathers going to church, invoking law and order – are no longer able to see the face of a terrified woman abused by two men, but only a “gypsy thief”, a child who has lost one eye because he played with a ball, but only a gypsy boy. And a “gypsy thief” or a “gypsy child” should have no compassion.
We ask for the punishment of those who have committed these hate crimes and we ask the guarantor of the Italian constitution, the President of the Republic and the President of the Parliament to be aware of the dangers of this situation and to promote joint discussions on how to counter antigypsyism and its effects on our society.
We ask the Council of Europe and the European Commission and all international institutions to intervene through institutional channels so that the Italian government commits itself to fight against antigypsyism as a condition for social inclusion policies in this country.
Finally, we ask journalists to take responsibility for antigypsyist propaganda in the media, tolerated for a long time, and take action against those who spread false information instigating hate and fomenting fear with consequences not only for Roma and Sinti communities but for the entire society.
Dijana Pavlovic, Consulta Rom e Sinti di Milano; Santino Spinelli, associazione FederArteRom; Nazzareno Guarnieri, Fondazione Romanì Italia; Paolo Cagna Nichi, associazione Upre Roma; Davide Casadio, Federazione Rom e Sinti Insieme; Gennaro Spinelli, associazione FutuRom; Saska Jovanovic associazione Romni Onlus; Concetta Sarachella, Rowni-Roma Women Network Italy; Giorgio Bezzecchi, Cooperativa Romano Drom e Museo del viaggio “Fabrizio De Andre”; Vladimiro Torre, associazione Them Romanò; Ernesto Grandini, associazione Sinti Italiani di Prato; Samir Alija e Miguel Lebbiati Fiorello, associazione New Romalen; Elvis Ferrari, Associazione Sinti Italiani di Piacenza; Carlo Berini, Articolo 3 Osservatorio sulle discriminazioni; Davide Gabrieli, Associazione Sucar Drom; Claudio Gennari, Associazione Sinti Italiani di Vicenza; Yuri Del Bar, Istituto di Cultura Sinta; Diego Grisetti, Associazione Sinti Italiani di Reggio Emilia; Bernardino Torsi, Cooperativa Labatarpe; Cen Rinaldi, Associazione Sinti Italiani di Verona; Jose Bianchi, Associazione Sinti Italiani di Busto Arsizio; Tomas Fulli, Associazione Sinti Italiani di Bologna; Luca Bravi, Radio Cora; Marco Brazzoduro, associazione Cittadinanza e Minoranze; Demir Mustafa, associazione Amalipe Romano; Simonetta Malinverno Associazione Amici di Via di Django; Alexander Valentino, Forum Campania Rom.