Hundreds of people including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte have attended the funeral of a young Black man whose brutal beating death has shaken the country.
Willy Monteiro Duarte, 21, was reportedly assaulted after he apparently came to the rescue of a school friend during an altercation on Sunday in Colleferro, a small town east of Italy’s capital, Rome.
Four suspects have been arrested, including a pair of brothers with police records, but to date, prosecutors have not indicated if the slaying was racially motivated.
At Saturday’s funeral procession, crowds of people, mostly wearing white shirts, walked towards a stadium where Monteiro Duarte – a well-liked trainee chef – was honoured, clapping in respect as his coffin was carried out.
It was a strong show of solidarity for the young man, who was described as hard-working and upstanding by those who knew him.
Conte, who called the family to express his condolences, has demanded justice for the killing.
In a statement, he asked rhetorically what it means that someone could be killed in Italy for having tried to help a friend.
“Will we tell our children to turn their heads away? Not to intervene to quell disputes or to try to protect weaker friends or friends in obvious difficulty?” Conte said.
“I don’t think this can be the answer or the way forward. Rather, we must multiply our efforts in every location and context, so that our children grow up with the culture of respect for everyone.”
Colleferro on Monday declared a day of mourning as did the nearby town of Paliano, where Duarte – who was born in Rome and whose family is from Cape Verde – lived.
Monteiro Duarte “was a great guy who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time”, Paliano’s Mayor Domenico Alfieri said on Facebook.
His photo appeared on the front pages of Italy’s main newspapers on Monday, with one saying: “Ciao Willy, killed for his generosity.”
The independent Lunaria monitor warned last year that racial attacks have been on the rise in Italy, a development it said was linked to the country’s “hostile political atmosphere”.
Last month, a 25-year-old Senegalese man was beaten up on a beach in Tuscany by two Albanians in an apparent racist attack, the ANSA news agency said.