Some 400 police raided a Roma camp last Thursday in Italy, evicting hundreds of people.
Hundreds of people were living at the River Village campsite on the outskirts of Rome.
The number of residents of the camp has been going down after police harassment. Electricity and water had been cut off from the site.
Marcello Zuinisi, representative of the National Roma Association, condemned the action. He spoke of the police using batons.
People stood outside the camp with mattresses and other belongings piled alongside vehicles, protesting with chants of “Racists”.
“This morning they came to throw us out. They treated us like animals,” said Florin.
“There was violence. They pushed the women and used pepper spray on one.”
One woman said, “They think that we all steal and sell but it is not so, I work and feed my children”
Another resident Nemeti, “It’s not right that they’re treating us like this. We’re not animals, we’re humans. There are 180 children in this field, I just ask not to be put back on the road.”
Journalists were kept outside during the raid.
The Italian interior minister, Matteo Salvini, met the mayor of Rome just before the eviction to organise the brutal clearance.
Salvini, deputy prime minister and leader of the far right League party, said that the police were at the disposal of Virginia Raggi, the city’s mayor. Raggi’s Five Star Movement is allied with the League in the national government.
The clearance was briefly blocked by the European Court of Human Rights. The eviction went ahead anyway.
Dismantling the camp was a key promise of the League’s election campaign.
It’s part of wider attacks, and Salvini has called for a census of Roma, and for deportations. The site has suffered raids by the police for weeks.
Salvini has repeatedly threatened to take a bulldozer to camps that have sprung up on the outskirts of many Italian cities.
The River Village was a state sponsored camp.
Salvini claimed the raid was organised in order to “to seal them and restore those spaces to the citizenry”.
“Finally, the eviction at the River Village Roma camp in Rome is underway. Legality, order and respect before everything!” Salvini wrote.
Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi said the Roma camp was closed for hygiene reasons.
Salvini denied he was being racist to the Roma. “It’s a parasitic minority which could equally be Swedish or Eskimo,” he said.
At the time of the eviction, it wasn’t clear what provisions were being made for families to be housed in alternative accommodation.
Another two “official” Roma camps are set to be closed down soon.