Italian parliament opens investigation after hundreds of migrants blamed for ‘unleashing hell’ at lakeside towns with rioting and sexual assaults

Italy's parliament is now investigating riots that broke out last week in towns located on Lake Garda.
By John Cody
8 Min Read

After last week saw widespread chaos breakout at parties in Italian lakeside towns near Lake Garda involving up to 2,000 migrants, the Italian public prosecutor’s office and the Italian Parliament have opened a number of investigations, including into one case where 30 migrant men allegedly sexually assaulted six teen girls on a train from Lake Garda to Milan.

The investigation also deals with violent incidents committed by some participants in a previous event in the town of Peschiera, a popular tourist destination. The Italian parliament will also be concurrently investigating the case and debating the incident that generated national headlines in the country.

On June 2, about 2,000 young people attended a massive party on the beach in Peschiera. The mayor of Castelnuovo. Giovanni Del Cero, was present during the rioting and said, “I tried to understand them, but they shouted absurd phrases, waving flags of various African countries,” reported the newspaper Corriere Della Sera. Witnesses also told Italian newspaper Il Giornale the crowd was “for the most part North African.”

The paper gave the following account of how the incident began:

Lots of North Africans and even second-generation immigrants arrived for an unauthorized street rave that started pretty quietly. Until 1 p.m., there were about 600 participants at the gathering who roamed the city, but without causing any particular disturbance. The situation grew out of control when the train arrived from Milan, and a wave of people, at least 1,500 teens, poured into Lake Garda. Almost all of them came from the provinces of Milan, Brescia and Bergamo. The theft of a bag was enough for the first brawl with sticks and knives to break out. Then, the crowd invaded the lakeside streets and the beach.

“They destroyed everything,” said a business owner speaking with Corriere Della Sera. “They broke shop windows, stormed the tourist train, and blocked passers-by on foot or by moped.”

When riot police attempted to intervene, the group of teens began throwing stones.

“I don’t know if they were first- or second-generation immigrants,” said Orietta Gaiulli, the mayor of Peschiera. “They are just a race of criminals who have left a deep wound in my community. We lived a day of war.”

One of video clips on social media shows how the group attacked a motorcyclist in a traffic jam caused by a crowd of party goers and then tried to tear the passenger’s purse away.

One Twitter user who posted a video of the incident wrote, “Thousands of immigrants unleash hell in Peschiera del Garda. Vandalism, fights, clashes with police, stabbings, families robbed, tourists terrified and forced to flee. The process of integrating migrants in Italy has clearly failed.”

Police are also investigating incidents on the train where five of the six teen girls said they were sexually assaulted while speaking with Italian journalists. They said there were 30 migrants groping and directing sexual remarks at them, and one of the perpetrators told the six girls, “White women don’t go up here.”

Corriere Della Sera also quoted one of the parents whose daughter had trouble getting off the crowded train. He criticized the railways for insufficient security. According to the Il Messaggero newspaper, the police detained 30 people, and a total of 10 girls are said to have been sexually assaulted at different locations on the train.

The horrifying reports of sexual assaults in the Lake Garda region come shortly after a number of women were sexual assaulted in Milan on New Year’s Eve by a group of migrant men. The country’s headlines have long been dominated by the disproportionate amount of incidents involving migrants, and data shows that despite foreigners making up a small portion of the country’s population, they account for nearly half of all rapes.

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Luca Zaia, the governor of the Veneto Region, said there must be zero tolerance for such behavior and demanded police apprehend those responsible for the sexual assaults.

“The idea must not pass that events like these can become ordinary or, even worse, that we can become accustomed to it. We have never even adapted to the fact of putting alarms in the house and thinking of closing ourselves inside. I repeat, zero tolerance,” he said.

“Baby gangs” a serious problem in Italy

Italian Minister of the Interior Luciana Lamorgese, who has been criticized for his soft-on-crime approach, also talked with regional authorities about the cases, which some local media call a “baby gang” attack.

“We need to pay special attention to this and ensure that similar incidents do not happen again,” the minister told Il Messaggero.

However, conservative politicians argue that the very policies promoted by Italy’s left-wing, technocratic government are fueling this rise in crime. They say such incidents are remarkably absent from nations like Hungary and Poland, which have taken a strict approach to both illegal migration and crime.

Given the outsized role of foreigners in the event and the presence of African flags such as the Moroccan flag, Italy’s conservative politicians have pointed to the incident as evidence that stricter immigration controls are needed.

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League leader Matteo Salvini said that “baby gangs” have long plagued Italy, and authorities are powerless to stop them unless they lower the age for criminal responsibility.

Salvini also posted a video on Twitter about individuals posting about what they say will be a repeat of what happened at Lake Garda; the message is spreading on TikTok. Now, there are fears that a second incident of violence could break out as Italy gears up for its tourist season.

“Peschiera del Garda was just a warm-up round. See you in Riccione,” the invitation video claims, referring to another Italian town party goers plan to congregate in.

The video posted on TikTok shows footage from the riots at Lake Garda, where a young man later raises the Moroccan flag. According to local media, the first event was convened under the slogan “Africa in Peschiera.”

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