Rome moves Roma families from housing project after protests

Police officers stand by a charred garbage bin after a protest organized by two far-right groups, Casa Pound and Forza Nuova, against the arrival of Roma families, on the outskirts of Rome, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi says there will be an investigation on charges of inciting racial hatred against the perpetrators of a violent protest against the arrival of Roma families at government-run housing. (Claudio Peri/ANSA via AP)
Police officers stand group of people during a protest organized by two far-right groups, Casa Pound and Forza Nuova, against the arrival of Roma families, on the outskirts of Rome, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi says there will be an investigation on charges of inciting racial hatred against the perpetrators of a violent protest against the arrival of Roma families at government-run housing. (Claudio Peri/ANSA via AP)

ROME — Rome city authorities have moved several Roma families out of a public housing project in a Rome suburb after violent protests by neo-fascist groups threatened their safety.

Far-right protesters from the neo-fascist party Forza Nuova screamed insults and threw objects at a van that removed several people late Wednesday. Some did a raised-arm fascist gesture known as the "Roman salute" and sang the Italian national anthem. Some neighbors turned out and applauded the Roma families' departure.

The Roma people are also known as Gypsies, although that term is considered derogatory by some and is increasingly falling out of favor. Traditionally nomadic, the Roma in Italy are estimated at fewer than 200,000 out of a population of 60 million, though most are now settled in urban areas.

The removal of the people Wednesday follows a Tuesday evening protest allegedly incited by Forza Nuova and another far-right group, Casa Pound, against the arrival of the Roma families on the outskirts of Rome.

Sky TG24 video showed dozens of people on Tuesday setting up barricades to prevent Roma families from reaching the public housing. One woman stomped on a tray of sandwiches set up for the new arrivals. As darkness fell, a car was set on fire, doused by firefighters.

Mayor Virginia Raggi described a "very heavy climate of hatred" and pledged an investigation into possible incitement of racial hatred. She also said the Roma families, including 33 children, would be placed elsewhere in the meantime.

Some Italian Roma have their roots in communities that have been in Italy since the Middle Ages though others arrived in the 1990s fleeing war in the former Yugoslavia. Though often Italian citizens, they face widespread discrimination and are seen by many in Italy as prone to petty crime such as bag-snatching and theft.

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