G8 Meeting at L’Aquila: an appeal for security of President Obama
Milan - On the occasion of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Italy for the G8 meeting at L’Aquila, EveryOne Group expresses concern for the President’s safety while in Italy. |
Against a background of escalating racist and xenophobic incidents, political party leaders from the center right to the far right—Lega Nord-Popolo delle Libertà, Forza Nuova, Fiamma Tricolore—have been exploiting racial prejudice to win votes and enlarge their constituency. Repeated episodes of racial aggression directed against black immigrants raise cause for alarm, particularly because such events are played down by politicians and the media alike, and often go unreported by the victims who fear the legal consequences that unjustly bear on refugees and ethnic groups. Underlying the problem is an entrenched xenophobia in public institutions. Hundreds of official control operations have been carried out among “unwelcome” ethnic groups: ethnic purges of Roma communities and expulsion of refugees who could have been protected under their right to asylum. The most recent example was the repulsion, in violation of the Geneva Convention, on 6 and 10 May of refugees under Italian naval escort back to Libya, a country known for its disrespect of refugee rights. Discriminatory measures against foreigners are undermining our basic principles of freedom and human dignity. A series of racist laws, touted as security legislation, are on the agenda, among which is shortly to be enacted Decree 733 which defines unregistered sojourning as a crime, provides for the formation of civilian militias to patrol neighborhoods and rid them of undesirable ethnic elements, and requires that citizens report suspected offences, creating an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust on which the Holocaust, apartheid, the Ku Klux Klan and the Immigration Restriction League all thrived. In a 2005 ruling by the Court of Cassation, calling someone a “dirty nigger” is not a crime in Italy but rather merely a “general expression of dislike toward others of a different race.”
Racist movements are gathering strength as they band to organize beatings, burnings and killings that remain unpunished. During the first months of 2009 hundreds of episodes of personal assault due to racial hatred have occurred; two homicide victims out of three are now foreigners. The Prime Minister’s comment of “well-tanned” in reference to Barack Obama was an insult he had picked up from Roberto Calderoli (Lega Nord), Minister of Simplification of Legislation, and has entered the vocabulary of racist groups. The dictionary of Lega Nord leader Umberto Bossi and his ilk refers to blacks as “bingo-bongos”. President Obama has become a favorite target of neo-Nazis and racists, extremist Facebook groups and innumerable blogs, often couched in disturbingly ambiguous messages; despite being reported, these hate-mongering sites remain open. Judging by opinions voiced by Lega Nord party members, fomenting fear of ethnic minorities is part of party tactics.
A key cabinet figure and Lega Nord member is Roberto Maroni, Minister of the Interior. Perpetration of racial intolerance has become so widespread in Italy that it has even entered sports: Mario Balotelli, Italian of African origin and forward on the Internazionale Milano and Nazionale Under 21 soccer teams, has received threats, insults, racist chants and banana skins thrown at him.
To the entire world President Obama represents tolerance, equality, social justice and democratic values. This is why racists hate him and this is why the EveryOne Group requests that the Italian authorities ensure that security forces during his visit be adequate. Moreover, EveryOne Group expresses its opinion that the decision to hold the G8 meeting at L’Aquila was woefully misplaced. Seismic activity in the area continues to pose serious safety hazards. The political and media spectacle accompanying the summit meeting will inevitably interfere with ongoing clean-up and reconstruction operations that need to proceed unhindered if new emergencies this winter are to be averted.
June 29, 2009
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