Monday, February 15, 2010

My thoughts on the Via Padova riots

The riots between groups of North African and South American immigrants in the east of Milan, were headline news in Italy over the weekend. But I doubt the events of the weekend would've got much coverage outside of Italy - I had a hard time finding an English language article for this post; but here's a link to an ANSA English article that was published today about the ethnic rioting in Milan.

I live fairly close to Via Padova, the street where the riots were Saturday night, and what happened has scared me. I've always known about that street's bad rep, though I'd never heard of anything happening in the time that I've been in Milan to justify the reputation. It's an area I've always been told to avoid, that I shouldn't even walk down that street in the daytime. The other week I went to a supermarket that was on the corner of Via Padova and another street, and I was advised (by an Italian) to take the bus there instead of walking down Via Padova.

When I first saw that street, when I needed to register for my GP, I liked the look of it. From the shops and cafes on the street I could clearly see that it was the most multi-ethnic area of the city that I'd come across, and I quite liked it - the different type of food on offer, the idea of things being on sale from different countries, the mix of different cultures. It was only after my trip there that I discovered Via Padova's bad reputation, and that Italians in general try to avoid that area if they can.

It's a sad state of things, but unfortunately it's reality in many areas of Italy. A few weeks ago there were riots between Italians and immigrants in the southern town of Rosarno too, there always seems to be tension between different ethnic groups in Italy. Even if it isn't obvious, it'll be bubbling away under the surface. Foreigners in general, are regarded with suspect, especially those from countries outside the EU; it's like going back in time 50 or so years. Looking back now, something was bound to happen in that area of the city eventually, it was like a bomb waiting to go off. And now all the Italians want out, it's become even more dangerous than before. And I'm left wondering what anyone can do to fix such a situation.

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