Pogrom in Italy

15 July 1999

The Italian and international press reported on June 21 that an anti-Romani pogrom had broken out in the town of Scampía, on the northern periphery of the Italian city of Naples, an area comprising Italian housing projects and six Romani camps. According to reports, on Friday evening, June 18, a Romani man on a visit from the northern town of Verona ran into two local girls on a motor scooter with his car, seriously injuring both of them. He was reportedly drunk and speeding. After the incident, he fled the scene and had not been located as of June 24. The following morning, locals whom articles in the Italian press and television described as young men with shaved heads and earrings, tattooed and riding scooters, armed with wooden clubs, guns and gasoline, entered one of the six Romani camps and told the inhabitants to „leave or be burnt with the camp". They then set fire to the camp. The fires drove out all one thousand inhabitants, who fled under a shower of applause from the neighbours on the surrounding balconies. The victims say police did not intervene to prevent the pogrom despite several calls to the emergency services. Approximately one thousand Roma escaped south to the town of Salerno, as well as north to the region of Lazio. The next morning, two hundred Roma returned and as of June 20 were under police protection. Locals continued to throw fire bombs into the smouldering barracks throughout the day and evening of June 20, despite police presence. At first it was thought that the attack was a settling of scores between local mafia and criminals among the Roma, but investigators have now excluded the involvement of organised crime. The father of one of the victims of the original incident has been questioned by police after he told journalists that he and his neighbours had decided to take the law into their own hands. Two ethnic Italians and three Roma have been arrested for looting. The area, near the state prison of Secondigliano, comprises massive housing estates. Previous instances of anti-Romani arson attacks in Italy have been reported in Romani settlements in Milan and Piacenza.

(Il Manifesto, la Repubblica)

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