For once we have riots that are not by anti-white black protesters — to whose violence Ferguson, among others, has accustomed us — but by indigenous Europeans defending their land against invaders.
In Rome, on the night of 10–11 November, a group of residents of the Tor Sapienza suburb living in public housing attempted to assault the local centre for refugees and asylum seekers incongruously named “Il sorriso” (The Smile), throwing stones and bottles and setting dumpsters on fire, amidst broken glass and screams of “We want to burn you”.
The reception centre houses over 40 youths — Gambians, Congolese, Ethiopians and other Africans, plus Afghans and Syrians — rescued from their boats crossing the Mediterranean.
The local residents have long been concerned about health and crime issues associated with Il sorriso and, after their complaints to the authorities went unheeded, they took matters into their own hands.
“The tension” said Tommaso Ippoliti, president of the Tor Sapienza Committee, “is skyrocketing. For years this neighbourhood has been abandoned, you cannot go out at night, and lately assaults and thefts have increased. A few days ago a girl walking her dog was molested in the park in mid-afternoon. As a committee we distance ourselves from the violence of last night, but people are rightly exasperated. We demand more security.”
“Police are scarce and the city has not responded to requests for more security and better controls of the migrant centres,” he added.
Burglaries, thefts from cars, physical attacks are of concern, but so is the deterioration of the area, including the poor lighting in the local park.
That’s why on 10 November about 150 people took to the streets for a spontaneous demonstration for “greater security in a neighbourhood overrun by immigrants,” and then the protest degenerated into incidents of urban warfare.
Subsequently, a rally of over 400 people representing more than a thousand local families was held on 11 November, leading to another protest outside the shelter. In the evening, 50 people launched cherry bombs, firecrackers and other objects — according to some witnesses even tear gas — against both the refugee centre and the police in riot gear permanently guarding the reception centre from the night before. Some cars were torched to stem the charge of the police aimed at dispersing the protesters. Two people, including a policeman, were taken to hospital with minor injuries.
Guests of the immigrant centre responded by throwing objects from their windows.
“It was a spontaneous action of some exasperated residents. It is not a question of racism, we’re just tired, we can’t take it anymore. In recent days there have been muggings, attempted rape and burgled apartments”, Ippoliti explains. “We are not extremists.”
There are at least three reception centres in the area, and a great number of immigrant squats and Roma camps.
The squalid public housing estate where the Italian protesters live, right in front of the modern reception centre for the immigrants, tells a lot of the whole story. Native residents rightly feel that a lot of taxpayers’ money is diverted into financing the business of “accoglienza” — welcoming and pampering foreigners — and not into addressing the pressing needs of Italians, at a time when Italy is undergoing its greatest economic crisis since the end of World War II.
The size of the crisis has led to cuts to local authority and welfare budgets, and buses are always too few and too crowded.
Tor Sapienza, on the eastern outskirts of Rome, is one of the worst suburbs of the capital, and often called a “dumping ground”.
It’s on this kind of peripheral neighbourhoods — the most affected by the crisis — that the burden of accoglienza is always shifted throughout Italy. In the central parts of town there are no refugee centres. The worse the area, the more negatively and seriously immigration is going to affect it.
Once again, as throughout the West, the costs of immigration fall disproportionately, if not exclusively, on the working and middle classes of the countries being inundated by non-European immigration, while elites can safely ignore the problems.
People of Tor Sapienza interviewed by Italian TV networks say that they are forced to go out in the morning carrying a knife for fear of assaults, and that in the area every 100 metres there is an apartment building of squatters while “our own people have no home.”
They say that men and women are unemployed. A girl says that she’s about to lose her job and her mother and brother are jobless, so she’s going to ask for the hospitality of the immigrant centre: 30 euros a day, accommodation, food, and cigarette voucher— not a bad deal.
Romanians have taken over the estate’s underground garages to live in. Why not? Police, says a man, never come to this area. Dozens of shop and market-stall owners have stopped business for fear of crime. Immigrants have even illegally built small houses.
Italians who don’t get the public housing they applied for are furious that immigrants get immediate accommodation.
They accuse the shelter’s guests of having taken over the children’s playground, which is full of broken bottles. A woman says that they defecate and urinate in public.
Still another reminds everyone of the complete lack of reciprocity when she says: “If I went to one of their countries they would kill me.”
“It’s not enough that immigrants walk around the estate on Viale Giorgio Morandi naked and throw things off balconies. Nobody can sleep because of the loud music,” complains resident Antonella Simoni.
“We feel like strangers in our own homes, surrounded by immigrants, nomads, transsexuals, pickpockets, and drunks,” adds Tullio.
No wonder the far-Right anti-immigration party Northern League reached 13% of preferences in the last opinion poll, for the first time becoming Italy’s third party, ahead of the 12.5% of Forza Italia, a party that was in government for many years, with its leader Silvio Berlusconi being Prime Minister four times.
In October the Northern League organised a demonstration in Milan attended by 100,000 people against illegal immigration, Islamisation and the European Union.
The protest of Tor Sapienza inhabitants is not the first in Rome in recent months. In September another suburb, Corcolle, protested against a refugee shelter after a string of assaults on bus drivers.
In the end the reception centre’s guests in Tor Sapienza were transferred for their own protection to another suburb, possibly even worse, the aptly-named Infernetto , which has already declared it doesn’t want them.
The urban warfare surrounding Il Sorriso centre has attracted lots of media coverage in Italy, where the mob has been accused of racism.
The various suburbs of Rome have united in a city-wide Coordinamento di Ribellione comprising 45 neighbourhood committees, which organised a massive demonstration against the mayor Ignazio Marino in which the protesters were wearing Pinocchio masks of his face. “The people will take this country back!” was the slogan.
The unrest has spread not only to other districts of Rome but also to other Italian cities.
There is talk of a new Italian civil war. The media are now saying that this was just the tip of the iceberg, and that the difficult cohabitation between Italians and immigrants has led to the explosion of social tensions accumulated over the years.
The rage is also directed, among others, at nomads, gypsies, squatters and immigrant occupants of public housing. Italy, like Britain, has a serious housing shortage. Also, since it is part of the Eurozone, Italy — unlike Britain — is in an economic straitjacket, and many people can’t pay their rent.
To date, Italy has rescued 160,000 people from the Mediterranean.
I asked my friend, journalist Alessandra Nucci, who lives in Italy, to give me her opinion on the Tor Sapienza incidents. This is her answer:
I think that the writing was on the wall, it was inevitable.
You fill us with paupers, this year thousands at a time have entered the country, you keep them in style and you shower them with compassion.
For years they’ve been given all: subsidised credit, public housing, professional courses, and on top of that praise and esteem.
How can you expect Italians, who have had everything taken away from them, including their good name and recognition for having shared their own country with others, not to get furious?
Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based Philosophy graduate, writer and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L’Espresso, La Repubblica.
She blogs at www.enzaferreri.blogspot.co.uk.