A project of the Center for Community Change

Italian Army Takes to Rome’s Streets in Anti-Immigrant Fervor

Last month, I posted on the chilling story of two Gipsy (also called Roma) children who drowned on an Italian beach and the onlookers who continued to sunbathe in indifference beside the bodies.

Well, this week, the anti-Gipsy fervor in Italy has reached new heights. Troops have descended on the streets of Rome, in order to enforce the breakup of a camp of Gipsy immigrants. An article in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper provides a great analysis of the situation.

I am posting on this because it is a parallel to our own current anti-immigrant scapegoating here in the United States. This is a truly complex issue, with many sides, points and arguments. However, the bottom line here is the humanity of immigrants and the basic rights of all people.

In Italy, similarities are being drawn between Berlusconi’s new administration and Mussolini.

Mr Berlusconi declared a “Roma emergency”, produced a disputed dossier of alleged immigrant muggings, robberies and murders, and promised to dismantle illegal gipsy camps. So far 700 have been identified. Even more controversial in a nation whose Fascist rulers helped the Nazis deport Jews and gipsies during the Second World War, fingerprinting of gipsies has started, despite the European Union saying the programme encourages xenophobia, and a Roman Catholic group describing it as racist.

On the streets of northern Rome such reservations are hard to find. “All our problems come from foreigners getting drunk, smashing windows and stealing,” said Anna Maria Mercure, who at 80 is old enough to remember an earlier era of Italian discipline. “Mussolini had his positive side. The streets were safe in his day.”

We must all remember that violating basic rights is a slippery slope. For those of you who continue to shout that unauthorized immigrants have no legal rights, you are wrong, they are afforded the same basic due process of the law. If we stand by and continue to allow their rights to be eroded (and the rights of many people under our current counter-terrorism efforts – i.e. warrantless wiretapping, automatic seizure of laptops at customs, racial profiling etc), we risk the erosion of our own rights.

An injustice to one is an injustice to all. Just something to think about.

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