Gypsy Hunting on the Outskirts of Turin

Woman among Wreckage of Turin Gypsy CampA woman before the remains of a building in Turin’s Romanian community, which was attacked. Photo by Tonino di Marco, EFE.

Gypsy Hunting on the Outskirts of Turin
A false rape accusation sets off a night of violence against Romanian immigrants.
El País: La caza del gitano a las afueras de Turín
Pablo Ordaz reporting from Rome December 11, 2011

A 16-year old girl told her family gypsies had stolen her virginity. Her older brother, Alessandro, confirmed the story: “There were two of them. One was wearing a gray tracksuit. The other had a big scar.” The story spread through the neighborhood of Vallette, built on the outskirts of Turin in the ’60s to accomodate migrant workers from southern Italy. The neighbors decided to protest against this dishonor. At first, peacefully. Then with shouts and stones. Finally, a group of Juventus supporters took control of the protest and warned: “women and children, go home. We’re going to hunt those gypsies.” That night, the shanty houses began burning.

It was already late – too late – when Susanna (an alias the police created for the minor) and her brother Alessandro decided to tell the truth. They did it because their story hardly stood up to even the first questions asked by the Carabinieri. The girl had lost her virginity, but not by force, and not to a Romanian immigrant, but willingly to a friend her age. She and her brother fabricated the juvenile rape story out of fear. Fear of her parents, so obsessed with her virginity that they frequently took her to a gynecologist to certify her “purity”. And fear of her grandmother, to whom the adolescent had promised she would go to the altar for her wedding ceremony a virgin.

That Saturday night, a hundred radicals united with 500 neighbors who had until then protested angrily but nonviolently. The radicals didn’t hide their aims. They brought all the typical hardware of such groups: hoods, masks, baseball bats, Molotov cocktails… “We have to kill them,” the ringleader said according to a witness, “because they are sons of bitches.” The hunt began, and the gypsies ran and hid. Some took beatings while barracks burned and gas canisters exploded. Smoke and fumes had already swallowed up the camp set up on the outskirts of Vallette – a suburb of a suburb – when Carabinieri patrol cars arrived on the scene. Two men, ages 20 and 59, were arrested for participating in the altercation. Meanwhile, two agents drove to the scene with Alessandro, who tried to calm the violence: “Guys, guys, calm down. My sister made it all up. It’s not their fault…”

But “they”, the others, the gypsies, reacted as if it really was their fault. Italian television showed downcast people trying to recover their belongings from the smoking barracks as if the aggression of the previous night – or the next night – were an inevitable part of the story of their lives. They are the perfect culprits: poor nomads who cannot take shelter under a roof or a flag.

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