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Viral Italian voice behind ‘Attenzione pickpocket’ revealed as counsellor for far-right Lega party

The voice behind the viral cry "Attenzione pickpocket" has been revealed as a right-wing city counsellor
The voice behind the viral cry "Attenzione pickpocket" has been revealed as a right-wing city counsellor Copyright Vision
Copyright Vision
By Savin Mattozzi
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How amateur watchdogs trying to catch pickpockets in Venice risk being discredited by Monica Poli, the voice behind the now viral "Attenzione pickpocket" videos, and her political affiliations.

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The Italian chant of "attenzione pickpocket" has become an international viral sensation. 

The line has even been remixed on apps like TikTok and Instagram as a backdrop in videos where people think they are getting scammed.

Monica Poli, 57, is the voice behind the popular cry. In her quest to alert people by calling out pickpockets in the streets of Venice, she was seen as an ordinary citizen trying to do some good. Now, she has come under scrutiny after it came to light that she is actually a city councillor representing the far-right Lega party in Venice.

This has led some TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) users to question whether Poli’s campaign against pickpockets could be her unjustly targeting Roma people in the city and thereby perpetuating stereotypes against the already marginalized community.

Who are Cittadini Non Distratti?

Monica Poli and her group Cittadini Non Distratti - undistracted citizens - film themselves shouting at people they believe to be pickpockets around the northern Italian city of Venice. 

The group has existed for nearly 30 years but has only recently become a viral after they created a TikTok account.

In the videos, there is a silence as the camera hones in on an individual or a small group of people. Then, Poli's booming voice can be heard shouting: “Attenzione borseggiatrici, attenzione pickpocket!” ("Attention pickpockets, attention pickpockets!") 

Even after she publicly shames the people she is accusing of being pickpockets, she continues to follow them as the occasional passer-by tries to stop the fleeing person by tripping or shoving them. 

These are scenes that take a new dimension when you know the group’s political associations... 

Affiliation with the Lega party

Monica Poli, along with three other city counsellors, are representatives of the far right Lega party for Venice.

The Lega party, formally known as the Lega Nord - Northern League - is one of Italy’s most far-right political parties. The foundation of the party is largely based on policies that are anti-immigrant, anti-southern Italian and anti-LGBTQ.

One of the most outspoken Lega politicians was Giancarlo Gentilini, the former two-time mayor of Treviso in the northern Veneto region. Gentilini was famous for saying he wanted to perpetrate an “ethnic cleansing of butt-lovers” referring to gay people, as well as advocating to dress up migrants as rabbits in order to hunt and shoot them.

The current Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is also known for his prejudiced and discriminatory rhetoric. Several years ago, he was caught on video chanting: “Smell that stink, even the dogs run away, the Neapolitans have arrived.”

Online criticism

After the revelations of Poli being a representative of the Lega surfaced online, some Twitter users were quick to make the connection between her political affiliation and how she nearly exclusively targets Roma people on the street.

One X user reacted to a New York Times interview with Poli, in which she says she can simply tell when people are pickpockets.

Indeed, the people often featured in her videos are not actually caught in the act of pickpocketing; rather, they just stand around or walk the streets.

As many have started to point out, it's possible that the people Poli is chasing are running for their safety instead of running away after committing a criminal act.

While Poli and her organization have stopped pickpockets in the past, the methods that they use and the potential prejudices they could have bring into question how far vigilante justice should go, and how are they being held accountable if they unjustly target an innocent person.

Additional sources • Corriere del Veneto

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