Municipal police snatch blankets from the Roma sleeping outside

Florence, Italy, Friday, October 10th, 2008: Florence, at three o'clock in the morning the municipal police snatch blankets from the Roma sleeping near the station and send them to be destroyed: "sleep on cardboard instead!"

Indignation from everyone group and aurora association who are requesting an urgent meeting with the mayor, Leonardo Domenici, and appealing to the people of Florence to help the Roma fight off the cold.

Over the last few days the voluntary association Aurora ONLUS in Florence handed out fifty blankets received from various donations to the Romanian Roma. Over recent months the Roma have been sleeping in the cold (with only cardboard to protect them) in Piazza Adua in front of the Santa Maria Novella railway station. The Roma families have never received any socio-medical assistance from the Florentine authorities or been offered any alternative lodgings. Most of all they need a warm place to stay seeing people below the age of 48 are barred from entering the centres set up by the authorities to shelter from the night cold.

At about 3 a.m. on Tuesday October 7th some municipal police patrols arrived in Piazza Adua where the Roma have set up their makeshift beds with some trucks owned by Quadrifoglio - the company that deals with the disposal of waste material from the city of Florence. After waking them with a start, the Municipal police ordered them to hand over all their blankets, and to those who objected saying it was too cold, they replied: "You can sleep on the cardboard instead!" All fifty blankets were confiscated and the Roma looked on as the blankets were thrown into the Quadrifoglio truck and taken away to be destroyed.

"This action is unacceptable" say Stefania Micol, president of Aurora, and Matteo Pegoraro, co-president with Roberto Malini and Dario Picciau of EveryOne Group. "It shows how the authorities of the City of Florence are following the racist, xenophobic current that is spreading throughout Italy, abandoning the path of tolerance and respect for human rights and resorting to hunting down the foreigner and criminalizing poverty.

"It is a civil disgrace" continue the activists "that in a city like Florence no programmes have been set up to help these people, leaving them to wander around the city centre without any kind of sustenance or social integration. Instead they have had the few means they possessed for bracing themselves against the cold brutally taken from them.

"We have already reported the episode to Viktoria Mohacsì, the Hungarian Euro MP of Roma origin" - explain the leaders of EveryOne, Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau. "She has already brought it to the attention of the European Parliament and the EU Commission. With this episode Florence becomes the sad symbol of racial hatred, along with another city, Pesaro (in the Marche region) which has recently announced the imminent clearance of a derelict building where a small community of Romanian Roma families have taken shelter. They were naturally not offered any alternative lodgings. There are many small children in the group and people suffering from serious health problems: malignant tumours, heart problems, physical handicaps, all living in conditions of extreme hardship. Pesaro and Florence are therefore under observation by the European institutions: they are modern cities that have fallen prey to the evils of racism, which is at the root of this persecution, mingled with the indifference shown by the local authorities and institutions. If they fail to take a step backwards and rediscover the values of solidarity and welcome, it will result in the cruel eradication of innocent human beings who have been offered no hope of integration, and, at the same time, it will result in the triumph of intolerance".

The Aurora Association and EveryOne Group are requesting an urgent meeting with the Mayor of Florence, Leonardo Domenici, in an attempt to find a speedy solution for these people, who, as the days go by, risk catching serious illnesses and infections due to the conditions of hardship they live in - as well as the low temperatures against which they have no way of defending themselves. The two associations are also appealing to the people of Florence to show their solidarity towards these unfortunate and persecuted families by coming to the Aurora offices in Via Macci, 11 and simply bringing a blanket - which will become the symbol of brotherhood, and also represent a civil response to the indifference of the local authorities and the inhumane treatment shown by the Municipal Police and the police force.

Source: EveryOne Group