Killing of Alika Ogorchukwu, 39, sparks racism debate amid election campaign focused on immigration
Hundreds of people marched in a central Italian town on Saturday, demanding justice for the murder of a Nigerian street vendor as prosecutors investigated an attack against a Nigerian woman in a separate incident.
The killing in broad daylight of Alika Ogorchukwu, 39, and case of Beauty Davis, who was allegedly slapped by her restaurant owner boss after she asked for wages owed to her, sparked a racism debate in Italy amid an election campaign in which immigration is a central theme for a coalition containing two far-right parties that is tipped to win.
Ogorchukwu was beaten to death in Civitanova Marche, on the Adriatic coast, allegedly by an Italian man who reacted violently after Ogorchukwu tried to sell him a packet of tissues. The suspect, said to suffer from psychiatric issues, was arrested although Matteo Luconi, a deputy police commissioner, ruled out “racial hatred”, adding that his response was provoked by Ogorchukwu’s “insistent request for a handout”.
Davis, 25, had been working as a dishwasher in a restaurant at a beach resort in the southern region of Calabria when she asked her employer for wages due. She claimed the man had only paid her for three hours a day, when she had worked more than 10. The confrontation was filmed and in the footage the man, who is being investigated for causing personal injury, theft and issuing threats, is seen slapping her.
Laura Boldrini, a politician with the centre-left Democratic party, blames the incidents on “years of propaganda by the [far-right] League and Brothers of Italy” that has “always described immigrants as a threat to the security of Italians, as murderers and rapists”.
She added: “We need immigrants to work in a variety of areas, but there is also this idea that you can exploit them, pay them little, insult them and hit them. Why? Because some people don’t consider them to be worthy of respect and because they are considered an inferior category.”
Brothers of Italy, a party with neofascist roots headed by Giorgia Meloni, is leading a coalition including Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia that is predicted to win the election on 25 September.
Salvini said he hoped the punishment against Ogorchukwu’s assailant was “the maximum possible”, and in response to the attack against Davis, said: “If someone attacks someone else, they are a criminal. Unfortunately there are hundreds of Italians attacked every day … we are not here to classify whether the aggression is white, black or yellow.”
Although Italy passed legislation in 1993 that outlawed racist violence and hate speech, a motive of racism is rarely recognised by judges if a case reaches court.
“The judges, police, governors and politicians are all white, middle-aged men who are embedded in a system of white supremacy,” said Kwanza Musi Dos Santos, a Rome-based member of the national anti-racist network DEI Futuro Antirazzista. “They’re not going to recognise [racism] and even if they are in a position of power, they will never report it or call it out.”
However, Dos Santos also blames leftwing parties for failing to tackle immigration in a constructive way, instead treating it as a problem and supporting laws such as the anti-immigration bill brought in by Salvini during his stint as interior minister in 2018. In 2020, when the Italian government was led by a coalition of the Democratic party and Five Star Movement, it renewed an EU-sponsored deal that funds the Libyan coastguard to essentially keep migrants out of Europe.
“The leftwing actually acts exactly like Salvini, instead using the ideological propaganda of saying ‘we’re not against immigration’, but actually what they do is treat it as a problem, as an emergency, just like the right wing,” said Dos Santos.

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