Immigrant attacks spark riots in Italy

  • @peterpopham

Italy is confronting a rising tide of immigrant anger this week after demonstrations erupted at opposite ends of the country against violent attacks directed at African immigrants.

At Caserta, a decaying seaside resort north of Naples, which has become both the stronghold of the most aggressive clan of the Camorra, the Naples mafia, and home to thousands of illegal immigrants, African demonstrators overturned cars and rubbish bins and tore down street signs in a spontaneous protest against the gangland killing of six Africans in and outside a boutique and tailoring workshop. Then on Saturday in Milan, thousands of demonstrators marched through the city to condemn the beating to death of a youth from Burkina Faso by the owners of a local bar who caught him stealing biscuits.

Two completely different and unrelated attacks, but both taken by their respective communities as proof of the miserable status of black people in Italy and the failure of the majority even to get a toehold on a life of decency and self-respect in a country which is only grudgingly coming to terms with its new multi-ethnic fabric.

The attack on Ob Ob Exotic Fashions, where automatic gunfire killed six people on Thursday night, was explained by police as punishment inflicted on African drug dealers for refusing to pay the newly inflated pizzo, or protection money, to the Camorra. But friends of the six black victims angrily rejected the charge.

One of them told La Repubblica newspaper: "It's a big lie. They were breaking their backs working in fields and building sites. Or they worked in the tailoring shop from morning to night, without raising their heads from the workbench."

A reporter for Il Mattino di Napoli, who specialises in Camorra crimes, confirmed that the massacre was nothing to do with drug dealing. "It was merely a way for them to impose their will on the territory," she said.

In Milan, a crowd estimated at 7,000 marched to protest the killing on 14 September of Abdul Salam Guibre, beaten to death by a Milanese father and son for stealing two packets of biscuits from their bar. The protesters smashed motorcycles and overturned rubbish bins along the route, chanting, "Ignorant white bastards".

Unlike the protesters in Caserta, these were not illegal immigrants, survivors of leaky boats from Libya, but first-generation Italians, speaking fluent Italian but feeling utterly rejected by the only home they know. Italy has never seen anything like it.