Racial tensions in Rome's suburbs
An immigration centre in a disadvantaged Roman suburb has come under attack for the last two consecutive nights, amid escalating racial tensions and violence in the area.
On the night of 12 November a mob of hooded and masked protestors clashed with riot police in the second evening of unrest outside the Sorriso immigration centre in the far-eastern suburb of Tor Sapienza. Up to 80 protestors threw petrol bombs and rocks at the centre, as well as setting cars and bins on fire, while the police responded with baton charges and tear gas.
During the attack certain sections of the 250-strong crowd shouted racist and fascist chants, and 14 people including four police officers were injured in the skirmishes. Police say they were also attacked by people throwing objects from their houses, and there are reports the protests were stoked by local drug dealers resentful of the extra policing which is compromising their illicit trade in the area.
The mayor of Rome Ignazio Marino has condemned the clashes, describing those responsible as a “group of real criminals.” Local residents are blaming immigrants for rising levels of crime in their area and claim they are afraid to go out at night for fear of being mugged or assaulted.
However the African and Bengali refugees housed in the centre on Via Giorgio Morandi say they are innocent and that they only came to Italy to seek peace.
The violence at Tor Sapienza is the latest in a series of racially-motivated disputes in other Rome suburbs such as Corcolle and Torpignattara over the last two months. In September refugees and locals clashed in the Corcolle district near Tivoli when a group of about 40 migrants pelted buses with stones and glass bottles, and threatened a female bus driver after claiming they were not being allowed on board. This led to locals forming vigilante groups to patrol their locality.