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Mob Violence Against Gypsies in Naples

Mob Violence Against Gypsies in Naples

Ottorino Cappelli (May 15, 2008)
Photographer Maurizio Cimino was born in Washington nd works as a research assistant at the University of Naples Audio Visual Research Center (Faculty of Sociology). ROM's identity is one of his main research subjects. (

Many Italians are making immigrants subject to the same nativistic prejudices, racism, and hate crimes that have harassed their grandparents and great grandparents in foreign societies.


Afflicted by over a century of humiliating emigration, legendary misgovernment, mountains of contaminated mozzarella, and seas of uncollected garbage, mobs from the outskirts of the “City of Sun” are exploding in a carousel of rage and violence.

But it is not against their history, political authorities, or the camorra business that the violence is directed. It is the gypsies who attracted the fury of a crowd of angry people in Ponticelli on Wednesday. And it’s still on. The anger mounted over the attempted kidnapping of a baby by a 17-year-old Roma girl earlier in the week. The girl broke into an apartment and tried to take the child from its baby seat in the kitchen. She was stopped by the family and then arrested.

But the day after a crowd of angry residents broke into the nearby gipsy camp armed with iron bars and threatened to burn it to the ground – which they did, threwing Molotov cocktails agaist the barracks just after the police had evacuated them. When firemen arrived to stop the fire, the mob jeered and shouted, ''You put these fires out and we'll start them again''.
The images of gypsies leaving the camps in vans provoked condemnation from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which drew parallels with Roma being forced to flee from the Balkans. ''In Italy there are around 170,000 Roma, of whom 34,000 from ex-Yugoslavia, who came to our country to seek protection from ethnic cleansing,'' said UNHCR spokesperson Laura Boldrini. ''We never thought we'd see such images in Italy,'' she added.

It is at the least the second of such episodes to have occurred in Italy in the past few months. Last November the murder of an Italian woman triggered a racist attack in Rome, when masked assailants with knives, clubs and canes stabbed and beat four Romanians, killing one. "We must prevent this terrible tiger, which is xenophobic rage, the racist beast, from getting out of control," commented Giuliano Amato, then Italy’s center-left Interior Minister.


Vew other pictures by photographer
Maurizio Cimino

 But in April, the right swept to victory in legislative elections after leading a campaign centred on security issues and largely blaming Romanians for immigrant-related violence. The new Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has announced measures to control or expel immigrants, especially the Roma, if they are illegal, found guilty of offences or have no visible means of support. "The security decree will be adopted by the council of ministers in Naples," Berlusconi told the Senate on Wednesday, describing his bid to associate immigration and crime as "an important twist in security policy."


In the last decades, Italy has definitively turned from an emigration into an immigration country.

As historian Stefano Luconi, an expert scholar of Italian/American affairs, writes: “Oblivious of the experience of their destitute ancestors who went abroad to make a living and ended up confronting ethnic bigotry and discrimination, many Italians have made immigrants subject to the same nativistic prejudices, racism, and hate crimes that had harassed their grandparents and great grandparents in foreign societies.”



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destefano's picture

This is truly shocking. I'm

This is truly shocking. I'm glad you wrote this piece, Otto, and I agree with your analysis. Regardless of whatever crimes individual Rom may have or have not committed, this racist, terroristic response is heinous and needs to be condemned. There's an article in today's (May 17) Repubblica about a Rom member of the European Parliament who visited the largest Rom camp in Rome. She was horrified by the climate of violent intolerance in Italy now. She also noted that Rom who are third generation Italians still lack rights in Italy:

Violence Against Gypsies

As an immigrant myself I am very disturbed to read such stories about my home town. I know the Neapolitan people have a big heart and are by far the most beautiful and friendly people on this planet. The rage about the 'snatched baby' has fueled the anger and sparked this horrific event from already existing problems and crimes with illegal immigrants in the region of Naples and around Italy.

Again the italian government has shown how incompetent it is, when it comes especially to immigration issues and its policies.

Sadly today I have learned the drowning of two Roma girls near Naples beaches and again my fellow neapolitans have shown little or no compassion at all! For god sake, those are innocent little children laying dead in front of you, just covered up with beach towels, their little feet staring at you while sun bathing? Today I am so ashamed to be an italian especially from Naples. I'll pray for those two little girls and for my 'paisanos'.

Carlo Urzo Phoenix, Arizona