Tuesday, March 5th marks the first anniversary of the killing of Senegalese street seller Idy Diene by Roberto Pirrone on the Vespucci bridge, just a few steps from the historic center of Florence. Roberto Pirrone is a 65 year old retiree from Florence. Firenze Today reported that Perrone had explained during his hearing that “he was faced with economic problems [and] he aimed to kill himself on March 5th.” Instead, he decided to kill another person. But was racism the true motivation behind the shooting?
This is not the first time this type of event has occurred in Florence. In 2011 Samb Modou fell victim to a similar murder. He and another Senegalese man, Diop Mor, were killed by Gianluca Casseri, a man with ties to the far-right anti-immigration movement Casa Pound. Coincidentally, Samb Modou and Idy Diene were cousins coming from the same village in Senegal. However police have established that Roberto Pirrone, the 65 year old retiree who killed Idy Diene, has no known connections to far-right anti-immigration groups such as Casa Pound.
Was Pirrone’s decision to kill Idy Diene random? According to Corriere Fiorentino, Pirrone said that he first saw an African lady with her child, then a group of Japanese friends, then a child with an elder. Pirrone hesitated at the thought of killing these three groups of people, however, he did not hesitate when he decided to kill Diene. One of the main controversies over the killing of Idy Diene is that Diario Nadella, mayor of Florence, failed to acknowledge the racist undertones of the killing and instead affirmed that it was a random killing by an insane man. The Senegalese community in Florence is upset. Papa Diaw, a spokesperson for the group stated to Il Sole 24 Ore that “Siccome tutti lo danno per pazzo, con una perizia psichiatrica diranno che è pazzo e che tra un anno è fuori. Noi non permetteremo questo.” (“Since everybody thinks he’s crazy, with a psychiatric report they will say he is crazy and he will be out in a year. We will not allow for this”). At the conclusion of Pirrone’s trial, Pirrone was given sixteen years of prison. Firenze Today reported that the defense did show the court a psychiatric report that claimed that Pirrone “suffered from depression,” however, the report showed that Pirrone was capable of “understanding and wanting” in his decision to kill Idy Diene.
Anti-immigration attitudes and racism is all too present in Florence and throughout Italy. With the rise of figures such as Matteo Salvini and political parties such as The League, a segment of Italian public opinion has become more intolerant in its attitudes towards immigrants. The Guardian reported that Roberto Calderoli, an Italian senator from The League, made a racist remark in 2013 describing the country’s first black minister, Cécile Kyenge: “I cannot but think of the features of an orangutan.” A court in Bergamo founded Calderoli guilty of defamation “aggravated by racial hatred.” Figures like Calderoli have contributed to the ever rising racist climate in Italy.
Despite this climate of hostility, the Senegalese community in Florence and other citizens have mobilized. The day after Diene’s murder 300 people peacefully demonstrated. Not even a week after his murder, over 10,000 took the streets of Florence as part of an anti-racist protest. This year on the 1st anniversary of Idy Diene’s death there was another march on the Vespucci bridge where he was murdered. More information can be found here.