Rome mayor: Clashes show security lacking in capital

AP News
|
Posted: Feb 20, 2015 9:43 AM
Rome mayor: Clashes show security lacking in capital

ROME (AP) — The mayor of Rome said Friday that Italy's capital is not secure against the threat of terrorist attacks after hundreds of marauding Dutch soccer fans rampaged through the city's historic center and damaged a just-renovated 400-year-old Bernini masterpiece at the foot of the Spanish Steps.

The security of Europe's capitals has been under increased scrutiny following the terror attacks in Paris last month, and in light of increasing violence and instability in the Middle East, in particular Libya, which has unleashed a flood of migrants trying to reach Italy by boat.

"It is evident that yesterday we demonstrated it is not safe," Rome mayor Ignazio Marino said in response to a question about what the clashes revealed about Rome's level of preparedness against a possible terrorist attack. "It is unacceptable that they come to a city for a soccer game and then they destroy a monument that is 400 years old."

Ahead of Thursday's Europa League match between Feyenoord and Roma, Dutch fans pounded the famed Fountain of the Barcaccia with beer bottles and unopened cans. Their actions damaged the travertine fountain that was unveiled only in September after a 200,000 euro ($227,000) restoration project, terrorized tourists and littered one of Rome's most upscale neighborhoods.

The mayor, who has described the scene as "urban warfare," said he will raise the security issue with Italy's top law enforcement official, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, when they meet later Friday.

Marino last month asked the defense and interior ministries to deploy an additional 500 police officers and dozens of soldiers to strengthen security at sites that could become the targets of terror attacks, including embassies and tourists attractions, due to the heightened alert.

Marino has called on the Netherlands or Feyenoord to pay for the damage, which has not yet been quantified. Marino told reporters that the Dutch ambassador has advised him that the government will not accept the financial responsibility, but that a number of Italian donors have already been in touch offering to contribute to the statue's restoration.

The city's top cultural official said damage to the fountain is worse than initially believed, and includes a 10-centimeter-long (4-centimeter) piece of travertine that been broken off the monument.

"The travertine marble suffered a series of blows that indicate an intention to damage the monument," Claudio Parisi Presicce told Sky TV 24 after surveying the monument.

Beyond the damage to the fountain, city officials said the hooligans vandalized city buses and other properties, and Italy's commerce federation estimated that the forced closure of stores, including luxury fashion boutiques in the streets surrounding the Spanish Steps, cost about 3 million euros ($3.4 million) in sales.

Several police officers were injured, and the ANSA news agency reported six Feyenoord fans were arrested in Piazza di Spagna, in addition to another 19 who were convicted of public disorder charges for causing trouble a day earlier in another Rome neighborhood.

EU Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said authorities should impose hard-hitting penalties on the hooligans.

"We need a tough approach to make justice prevail and also because sports should not be damaged by the violence of hooligans," said Timmermans, a Dutchman who considers Rome his "second home."

Timmermans said the behavior of the rampaging fans was "a sign of barbarity and brutishness."

Feyenoord director Eric Gudde called the hooligans' rampage in Rome "totally repugnant behavior from a group of brainless people from whom Feyenoord completely distances itself."

Despite efforts to organize fans in the stadium to prevent incidents, Gudde said he left Italy "feeling ashamed" by the rioting.

___

Colleen Barry in Milan, Andrew Dampf in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria, Raf Casert in Brussels and Mike Corder in Amsterdam contributed to this report.