Racist slurs, bananas, hurled at Italy's 1st black cabinet minister

July 28, 2013 at 3:12 PM
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CERVIA, Italy, July 28 (UPI) -- Italy's first black cabinet member says racist attacks against her suggest "the time has come for us to study the problem of communication."

Cecile Kyenge, an ophthalmologist who was appointed minister if integration this spring, has been subjected to insults and slurs from right-wing members of the government and the public -- and was the target of bananas thrown from the crowd as she spoke Friday in Cervia, CNN reported.

Kyenge spokesman Cosimo Torlo said the bananas did not reach the stage where Kyenge was speaking.

Torlo said police will step up security around Kyenge -- who has also received death threats -- but Kyenge said in a Twitter post the banana attack was a waste of food at a time when many people are dying from hunger.

Just before Kyenge arrived for Friday's rally, someone smeared blood-red paint and anti-immigrant messages onto mannequins, and posted a sign that said, "Immigration kills."

The far-right political group Forza Nuova (New Force) claimed responsibility for the incident, CNN said.

Italian Sen. Roberto Calderoli two weeks ago suggested a comparison between Kyenge and an orangutan.

He later said he had meant it as a joke but said Kyenge might be a better government minister "in her own country."

Kyenge -- a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo who became an Italian citizen after moving to Italy in the 1980s to go to medical school -- said Calderoli should "reflect on the political and institutional role that he carries."

"Also, he must go beyond putting everything on a personal level," she said. "I think the time has come for us to study the problem of communication."

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