Rachael Kennedy, euronews, August 2, 2019
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been accused of racism and being “out of control” following comments he made toward a Romani woman on Twitter.
The 46-year-old leader of Italy’s far-right League party was tweeting in response on Thursday evening to a news report that showed a woman living in a Roma camp in northern Milan saying she thought the politician deserved “bullets in the head.”
Using the word “zingaraccia” — which means dirty gypsy — Salvini threatened a bulldozer to the woman’s home.
He wrote: “But is it normal for a gypsy woman in Milan to say: ‘Salvini should be shot in the head?'”
“Be good, dirty gypsy, be good, for the bulldozer is arriving soon”.
Salvini is well known for his hardline stance against Italy’s Roma communities, having vowed to shutter “illegal” camps populated by the ethnic group in a decision that has been met with widespread criticism.
But it was his comments on Thursday that generated renewed angry backlash, particularly after many pointed out that they were posted on the eve of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
The commemoration is marked on August 2 every year in remembrance of around 3,000 Romani and Sinti people who were murdered in gas chambers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi camp on the same date in 1944.
Antonio Spadaro, the director of Italian magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, condemned Salvini’s “abominable” comment, emphasizing its close proximity to such an anniversary.
He said: “The word, zingaraccia, that resounded in the ears of Italians today is abominable.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Party politician Roberto Giachetti said the comments showed Salvini was “out of control”, and suggested people begin worrying “before it’s too late”.
He wrote: “We are no longer in the field of exaggeration and provocations. I think that Salvini is now out of control.”
“He is technically unable to control himself. Being the minister of the interior is no small problem.”
“Maybe someone should start worrying before it’s too late.”
An Italian journalist, Corrado Formigli, asked whether a politician who uses “openly racist terms” should be allowed to be in a top position such as the country’s interior minister.
In his response to the criticisms, Salvini said he found it “crazy” that people had latched onto his use of the word zingaraccia, and had not directed similar criticism at the woman for wishing him harm.
He then used his response to recapitulate his promise to close Italy’s Roma camps.
“Crazy stuff. The problem is not a gypsy, living in an abusive Roma camp, who threatens to kill the minister of the interior. The problem for some is the word ‘zingaraccia’,” he said.
“I’m going ahead until the goal is reached: zero Roma camps in Italy.”
Euronews has reached out to Twitter to ask if any action is, or will, be taken over Salvini’s comments on the platform.