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Italy: bananas thrown at the country’s first black cabinet minister

It’s just the latest in a string of racist taunts and threats the Congolese-born Italian citizen has had to endure since her appointment in April.

Cecile Kyenge calderoliEnlarge
Italian Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge talks to the press on June 18, 2013 on the sidelines of a International Organization for Migration meeting at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. (Boris Heger/AFP/Getty Images)

Bananas were thrown at Italy’s first black cabinet minister, Cecile Kyenge, at a political rally this weekend in Cervia.

The bananas didn’t hit their target, but landed between the first and second row of spectators, Kyenge spokesman Cosimo Torlo told CNN. The man who threw the bananas ran off and has not been identified.

Torlo said security will be increased around Kyenge, who is minister of integration, but the minister minimized the incident. On Twitter, Kyenge said it was a sad waste of food when so many people are dying of hunger.

It’s just the latest in a string of racist taunts and threats the Congo-born Italian citizen has had to endure since her appointment in April.

Two weeks ago, Italian Sen. Roberto Calderoli, a member of the anti-immigration Northern League party, said at a political rally: "I love animals – bears and wolves, as everyone knows – but when I see the pictures of Kyenge, I cannot but think of, even if I'm not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan." He later apologized.

Previously, a Northern League official said "she seems like a great housekeeper" but "not a government minister."

Kyenge’s also been called a "Congolese monkey," "Zulu" and "the black anti-Italian,” according to CNN.

Kyenge’s cabinet colleagues reacted with dismay.

Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said on Twitter he felt the "utmost indignation" over the incident, according to BBC News. Education Minister Maria Chiara Carrozza said she admires Kyenge’s courage and determination in such a hostile climate.

“Another shameful and disgraceful gesture,” Gianni Alemanno, former mayor of Rome, said. “Solidarity with the Minister Kyenge. Now let's just isolate the idiots."

Even Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia, a Northern League member, said the hostility has gone too far. "Throwing bananas, personal insults... acts like these play no part in the civilized and democratic discussion needed between the minister and those who don't share her opinion,” he said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/italy/130728/italy-bananas-thrown-at-the-country-s-first-black-cabinet-