Italy has seen an outpouring of disgust after a spectator at a party rally threw bananas at the country’s first black minister, who has suffered an onslaught of racist slurs since taking office in April.
Integration minister Cecile Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was making a speech at the Friday rally when a member of the audience began to launch the pieces of fruit towards her. The bananas missed the podium where she was speaking but the incident drew a deluge of condemnation in the media, where politicians and commentators lamented the shame brought on the country by the actions of the far-right.
“Another shameful and disgraceful gesture. Solidarity with the Minister Kyenge. Now let’s just isolate the idiots,” said Gianni Alemanno, former mayor of Rome.
“I am ashamed to share the country with people like this,” wrote one Twitter user, Eugenio Iannelli, reflecting the dismay of many on the social media network.
The treatment of Ms Kyenge has thrown a spotlight on the ugly racist currents running through some strands of society in Italy, a country grappling with tensions over rising levels of immigration, particularly from North Africa.
Since her appointment in April she has suffered a campaign of harassment from far-right groups angered by her campaign to make it easier for immigrants to gain Italian citizenship.
Shortly before Friday’s incident, members of the right-wing Forza Nuova group left mannequins covered in fake blood at the site of the rally in Cervia, central Italy, in protest against Ms Kyenge’s proposal to make anyone born on Italian soil a citizen.
“Immigration kills,” was written on leaflets left with the dummies – a slogan Forza Nuova has previously used to highlight murders committed by immigrants in Italy.
Ms Kyenge, who has largely maintained a dignified silence in the face of the abuse, issued a restrained condemnation of the act, calling it “sad” and a waste of food, considering the economic crisis.
“The courage and optimism to change things has to come above all from the bottom up to reach the institutions,” she added.
The insults directed at Ms Kyenge since she took office have frequently come from other politicians. Earlier this month a senior parliamentarian in the anti-immigration Northern League party likened her to an orangutan and only apologised after a storm of criticism.