The government of Silvio Berlusconi ran for election on a platform that was blatantly anti-immigrant, anti-Roma and anti-Muslim. It is not surprising that hatred of minorities is rather commonplace in Italy. Two recent riots highlighted how Berlusconi and the right wing have transformed their society into a hotbed of prejudice. At Caserta, a seaside resort north of Napeles, African demonstrators overturned cars and burned rubbish in anger over recent gangland killings of six African immigrants. A day later, thousands demonstrated their frustration in Milan over the killing of a young boy who stole a biscuit from a restaurant. The police claim that drug lords in Naples killed six African drug dealers who would not pay the increase required of them by dominant gang leaders.

These demonstrations reflect frustration and bitterness at being in a society in which if one’s skin is black or if one is identified as a Roma, authorities will treat the individual as someone who is inferior and not due respect as a “real Italian.” If a nation’s leader sanctions prejudice, it is not surprising that thugs and neo-Nazis will come to believe they have carte blanche to attack and murder.