ROME (AP) — Hundreds of people in Italy walked in a funeral procession Saturday for a young Black man whose brutal beating death has shaken up the country and drawn condemnation from the highest levels of government.
Premier Giuseppe Conte and Italy’s interior minister attended the funeral of 21-year-old Willy Monteiro Duarte, who was killed during a fight in Colleferro, a city on the outskirts of Rome, in the early hours of Sept. 6.
Four Italians have been arrested, including a pair of brothers with police records, but to date prosecutors haven’t indicated if the slaying was racially motivated.
Italian news reports have quoted witnesses as saying Monteiro Duarte, who was born in Rome and whose family is from the African island nation of Cape Verde, intervened while seeing a friend get beaten up in the fight and was then fatally beaten himself.
The funeral procession featured hundreds of people, most wearing white shirts and facemasks, walking toward the sporting stadium where Monteiro Duarte was honored and then clapping in respect as his casket 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.
Italy’s premier has displayed dismay over Monteiro Duarte’s death. He called the family to express his condolences. In a statement, Conte demanded justice and 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.”