Rome prosecutors probe assault on refugee reception center

'80 masked, stick wielding assailants' involved, police said

(ANSA) - Rome, November 12 - Rome prosecutors on Wednesday opened a probe after a violent attack on a migrant reception center in the city's outlying Torre Sapienza neighborhood late on Tuesday in which two people were injured, including a police officer who was hospitalized with contusions. Some 80 enraged residents set cars and dumpsters on fire and threw stones and flares at police who stood guard throughout the night around the reception center, which houses some 40 underage kids who were rescued at sea by Italy's Mare Nostrum immigrant search-and-rescue operation.
    "Some 70-80 people, many of them with their faces covered and armed with sticks, attacked the center and our patrols with a clear intent to commit an assault, throwing blunt objects and flares at law enforcement and at the center itself," police said in a statement.
    The minors responded by hurling objects out the windows as police charged the attackers and threw tear gas to disperse them. Tensions remained high throughout the day Wednesday in the eastern suburb, where police remained on guard at the reception center.
    The violence came after 400 people turned out to a public meeting Tuesday to call for more security after a local girl was harassed while walking her dog in broad daylight.
    Residents also complained of car thefts, the lack of lighting in the neighborhood park, and a rash of house break-ins, which residents ascribe to foreigners living in the area, which also include Romanians and Albanians who reside in low-income housing and Roma people who live in an area encampment.
    "We are exasperated, not because we are racists but because these people commit thefts and attacks. They are making our neighborhood unlivable," one female resident said. "If no one will guarantee our safety and justice, we will have to provide it ourselves".
    City authorities were swift to slam the episode of gang vigilantism.
    "We will not let citizens' safety be endangered by a gang of violent extremists venting their fanaticism," said Mayor Ignazio Marino, adding that the area will be policed "centimeter by centimeter" to prevent more violence.
    "Rome rejects the ignoble anti-immigrant witch hunt (and) the attempted violence on defenseless kids," Marino said.
    "Some 70-80 people, many of them with their faces covered and armed with sticks, attacked the center and our two patrols with a clear intent to commit an assault, throwing blunt objects and flares at law enforcement and at the center itself," police said in a statement.
    The kids responded by hurling objects out the windows as police charged the attackers and threw tear gas to disperse them. Tensions remained high throughout the day Wednesday in the eastern suburb, where police remained on guard at the reception center.
    The violence came after 400 people turned out to a public meeting Tuesday to call for more security after a girl was while walking her dog in broad daylight. Residents also complained of car thefts, the lack of lighting in the neighborhood park, and a rash of house break-ins, which residents ascribe to the foreigners.
    "We are exasperated, not because we are racists but because these people commit thefts and attacks. They are making our neighborhood unlivable," one female resident said. "If no one will guarantee us safety and justice, we are forced to provide it ourselves".
    City authorities were swift to slam the episode of gang vigilantism.
    "We will not let citizens' safety be endangered by a gang of violent extremists venting their fanaticism," said Mayor Ignazio Marino, adding thearea will be policed "centimeter by centimeter" to prevent more violence.
    "Rome rejects the ignoble anti-immigrant witch hunt (and) the attempted violence on defenseless kids".
   

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