Rampage by Dutch hooligans leads to blame-game in Rome

Lots of finger-pointing going here on after the shameful behavior by rampaging, drunk Dutch soccer hooligans, whose rioting in Rome’s famous Piazza di Spagna ended in irreparable damage to Bernini’s marble “Barcaccia”.

The not-very popular mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, understandably upset by the inability of Italian police to isolate the offenders and stop their destructive conduct, is however using the occasion to try to minimize the related malfunction of his own administration – for example, failure to enforce a ban on selling alcohol that supposedly had gone into effect on Wednesday evening.

Restored only a year ago thanks to a private donor, the Barcaccia  doesn’t look that bad from afar, but reportedly has suffered some 110  irreparable scratches from the bear cans and bottles thrown by several hundred out of control Feyenoord fans, in Rome for a European League game with A.S.Roma (which, by the way, ended in a tie).

But the aftermath of the face-offs with Italian police – first on Wednesday night around Campo de’ Fiori and on Thursday at Piazza di Spagna – did more than frighten tourists, cause a loss of revenue to downtown merchants, and damage the Bernini (father and son) monument, numerous scooters, motorcycles and cars and some 17 city buses.


It has set off a debate about security in Rome with the city’s mayor enraged over what he saw as an inadequate police strategy (the police in Italy are under the aegis of the Ministry of the Interni) and the Rome police chief, Nicolò D’Angelo. who insists that caution was necessary to make sure there was no loss of life.

In effect, it seems odd that Italian police who have decades of experience in dealing with demonstrations, were unable to keep the frenzied Dutchmen from reaching the heart of downtown Rome and had not thought of providing protection for the fountain.

But had the Rome city police – erroneously called “vigili” since “vigilant” they are not – been on THEIR toes, shutting down and fining the mini-markets and mobile snack bars that were illegally selling bottled beverages, there might have been less damage. Rome’s city police have been criticized for years now for their lack of efficiency and professionalism. But currently they are really at daggers drawn with the mayor after his administration rightly began punitive measures against the ringleaders of an unauthorized strike on New Year’s Eve when close to one thousand city police feigned illness instead of turning up for work.

Who know, too, if relations between Italy and Holland will be damaged. The Dutch government has said they will help identify the offenders and see that they pay for the damages they inflicted but has refused to make an official contribution.


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