Commentary. Salvini has been saying that he wanted “to close the camps,” but now we know what he actually means: a new ethnic cleansing, against the Roma, who have been historically stigmatized for being different.

The fire of racial hatred is burning right in our faces. Will we stop it?

On Wednesday, our Mauro Biani, in one of his remarkable “vignettes,” proposed that we should move the Turin Book Fair to Casal Bruciato. Unfortunately, this won’t happen, but the provocative suggestion was sorely needed. That’s because what is happening in Rome right now is, if anything, even more worrying for us than the scandal at the Turin Book Fair, where the so-called fascist publisher Altaforte is finally being kicked out.

In Casal Bruciato—which is not at the periphery, but right in our backyard, just across from the Tiburtina train station—it was again CasaPound, with the same handful of agitators who were responsible for Torre Maura and have gone unpunished, now stirring up racial hatred against a Roma family of Bosnian origin, guilty of having been assigned public housing. The racist CasaPound mission has been raging for three days, with a tent, megaphones and far-right activists who seem strangely untouchable by the authorities. Wednesday, they had no qualms about attacking Mayor Raggi, who was basically forced to flee even with her police escort: she was herself treated “like the Roma” and received her share of insults.

Rome is more than just out of control: some areas—despite the brave democratic rallies of the housing movement—are effectively in the hands of CasaPound. And one can have little doubt that we’re dealing with out-and-out fascists: it’s enough to read Wednesday’s indictment by the Bari prosecutor’s office against 28 CasaPound militants who now stand accused of “reorganizing the dissolved Fascist Party and engaging in a Fascist demonstration” after they assaulted a group of anti-fascists in Bari last year.

The incident happened on Sept 21 and targeted protesters taking part in the “Never Salvini” march in Bari against the Interior Minister’s visit to the city. Of course, the indictment concerns “just” those 28 who have been named, but how can we separate them from all the other militants of the same organization?

In Casal Bruciato, our democratic institutions are under attack. Indeed, they are literally running scared. It wasn’t enough that the day before, and through the night, the M5S city councilor responsible for the Rome social housing stock and the president of the Municipio IV district showed their solidarity and ensured protection for the beleaguered Roma family, taking a firm stance of “Rights first” against those screaming “Italians first.” Under assault by the fascists—joined by Deputy Prime Minister Di Maio himself, whose reaction fit under the heading of “Italians first”—the city officials tried to defend this political-administrative arrangement, indispensable for integration if one truly has the intention of closing the godforsaken Roma camps in which politicians have been guilty of locking the Roma up (and then taking advantage of the artificial “emergency” they created). Perhaps the problem is that everyone is convinced of the “fact” that these people are nomadic “by nature.”

Even Salvini has been saying that he wanted “to close the camps,” but now we know what he actually means by that, he and the handful of unpunished criminals who are following his lead: namely, to start a new ethnic cleansing, under the guise of “security,” against a people, the Roma, who have been historically stigmatized for being different, constantly on the run because they have been chased away from their countries of origin in Europe, as well as due to the recent wars in the Balkans. They were victims of Nazi extermination in the same camps, such as Auschwitz, where the Jews were subjected to the Holocaust.

It’s impossible to erase from our eyes and hearts the indelible image of the terror on Tuesday evening, and the fear of the children of the Roma woman who was threatened with rape by the so-called “locals”—children who, when they first arrived, thought that the assembled group was there to give them a warm welcome, only to find that they were hostile and threatening. Won’t that image be burned into their eyes and minds forever? After the similar events in Torre Maura, the path of fascist violence seems to paradoxically retrace the footsteps of what was once the local presence in Rome of the new left.

What more needs to happen for a widespread, deep-rooted and powerful anti-fascist and anti-racist mobilization to return and strengthen the democratic fabric—almost vestigial at this point—of a Rome infested by racism, and of all of Italy? At this point, something needs to be done everywhere, from Rome to Turin.

To use a historical metaphor, we’d have to say that if we had to choose between stopping the fire at the historic Library of Alexandria and saving a child’s life, we’d have no hesitation to save the child. At the Turin Book Fair, we saw the spectacle of the arrogance and impunity of an openly fascist would-be publisher, with ties to the sowers of hatred from CasaPound, which had the audacity to come to the most important editorial-cultural event in Italy to promote a book consisting in a biographical interview with Matteo Salvini, the racist and anti-immigrant Interior Minister who is nonetheless exerting powers given to him under a Republican Constitution born of the anti-fascist resistance.

At Casal Bruciato, however, the fire of racial hatred stirred by CasaPound against the Roma is burning right in our faces, without any pretense of a self-styled “cultural” mediation. The particular novelty and mechanism at play lie in the fact that both these situations have the same origin: they are inspired by the performance in government of the current Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who came to power thanks to the ill-fated “contract” between the Lega and the M5S. In both these cases, the left is not a factor and the politicians and institutions are silent. And such silence can only mean one thing.

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