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Italian police accused of racism over viral video of arrests in Milan

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By Matthew Holroyd
Two city police officers patrol the Navigli area of Milan.
Two city police officers patrol the Navigli area of Milan.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Luca Bruno, FILE
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Italian police officers have been accused of racism over a viral video of black teenagers being beaten and arrested in Milan.

Carabinieri officers say they were called to reports of alleged violations of noise regulations and COVID-19 restrictions shortly before 06:00 (CEST) on Sunday.

A group of around 20 young people, mostly black, could be seen gathered outside a fast-food restaurant in Milan's Navigli area.

In an ensuing confrontation, carabinieri officers in riot gear can be seen kicking an unarmed teenager and beating up another girl as she tries to defend him. The authorities have been accused of attacking the teenagers for racist reasons.

The incident was filmed by one girl, who later uploaded the video to Instagram where it has been viewed more than 5.5 million times.

The girl claims that the group of teenagers were having breakfast at a McDonald's restaurant when one boy started to ring the bell of a nearby scooter.

Police then arrived, threatening the boy, before calling reinforcements, she added.

The witness says that uniformed carabinieri officers -- upon arriving -- began pushing the teenagers, and then beating them when they reacted to their actions.

After several members of the group armed themselves with glass bottles, the military police then chased and assaulted the youths, she added. Officers have also been accused of using "racist insults" during the confrontation.

Italy's carabinieri has released a different version of events in a statement to Euronews, saying they were called to reports of a "fight".

"The Carabinieri intervened at the request of the Army ... who asked for help for a fight near McDonald's involving more than 20 young people, in conjunction with the closing time," the statement said.

"A team of military personnel on public order duty was sent to the scene to deal with the situation in conditions of safety," the carabinieri said.

Police said the military officers were requested at the scene after "frequent episodes of violence by groups of young people against the police" in the Navigli area of Milan.

Officers were unable to cooperate with those at the scene because "young people reacted by brandishing bottles and throwing them" at the authorities, the statement continued.

One of the young men was arrested after throwing bottles and attempting to throw a manhole cover at officers, the police added.

"The arrestee, who was riding around the Carabinieri on a scooter ringing the bell, was later recognised by officers as one of the participants in the fight, who had previously tried to take a truncheon belonging to one of the army officers."

Another young man has been charged with resisting arrest, failing to comply with the authorities, and refusing to provide information on his personal identity.

Police also added that a girl had suffered a head wound in their "actions of containment" and was taken to hospital for treatment, without providing further details.

It has been claimed that officers refused to call an ambulance for the injured girl, who has since been discharged from hospital.

The carabinieri said they were aware of the viral videos of the incident, but did not respond to Euronews on the allegations of racism.

"Some videos have been spread, also on the internet," the statement said.

"The video footage has been forwarded to the judicial authorities and further investigations are underway, also in relation to the circumstances in which the intervention took place, where residents in the area have long experienced unease."

The mayor of Milan, Beppe Sala, has said on Facebook that "the truth must be sought".

"I immediately called the Prefect and listened to the version of the police, after hearing the words of the girl who denounced an act of racism on Instagram," sala said.

"Racism is a serious, very serious matter. As long as I am mayor I will fight it with all my might. But always respect the truth."