1000s march in Italy after racist attack
Florence - Thousands marched against racism in Florence on Saturday after a far-right activist killed two Senegalese street vendors in a shooting spree in the historic Italian city this week.
"We want today to be the dawn of a new hope so that our brothers did not die in vain," said Pape Diaw, a spokesperson for the Senegalese community.
"We really have to work for peaceful coexistence and respect of people but it has to be a real struggle not just a facade," he told reporters.
Around 10 000 people took part in the demonstration, according to police, while organisers put the number at some 12 000. Participants carried Senegalese flags and placards including one that read: "Racism? Not in my name".
The city is still in shock after Gianluca Casseri, a Holocaust denier and author of fantasy novels, went on the rampage on Tuesday with a Magnum revolver at two local markets including the tourist-heavy San Lorenzo in the centre.
Two Senegalese street vendors were killed and another three wounded before the 50-year-old killed himself when police began closing in on him.
Senegalese authorities have called for a full inquiry into the killings.
Dozens of Senegalese gathered at the Dalmazia Square market where the spree began to read passages from the Qur'an and pray in commemoration of the dead, as others left flowers and messages at an impromptu shrine.
"There needs to be a strong commitment against racism by everyone and we need to put in place an immigration policy in line with our constitution," said Vannino Chiti, a senator from the centre-left Democratic Party.
Chiti, who took part in the demonstration, said Italian law should be changed before the next elections to allow the children of immigrants to obtain citizenship - echoing a demand made by President Giorgio Napolitano.
Several members of the Senegalese community have also called for the immediate closure of Casa Pound, a national right-wing social group that Casseri belonged to, but which has been quick to denounce the violence.
At a similar march in Milan on Saturday in which hundreds of people took part, some immigrants shouted "Racists!" and "Murderers!" at police.
Senegalese people staged other protests in the cities of Bologna and Naples.
Many street vendors in Italian cities, who sell everything from African sculptures to tourist trinkets to fake designer accessories, are Senegalese.
Their makeshift stalls are popular but they are often selling without official licences and are forced to run off whenever police approach.
In an interview on Saturday, International Co-operation and Integration Minister Andrea Riccardi warned attacks like the one in Florence and an arson attack on a Roma camp in Turin last Saturday were "a warning bell".
"We can't dismiss these as one-off events. They are a risk for the integration and the solidarity of our country. And they show that the crisis is not just economic but much deeper," said Riccardi.