“Africa in Peschiera”—such was the motto of a migrant mob consisting mostly of young men from North Africa that terrorized several towns around Lake Garda, including the popular vacation destination Peschiera del Garda on June 2nd. The mob arranged to meet via TikTok for a dance and music party on the beach, with most of the men arriving from Veneto and Lombardy, especially from Milan. But very soon the heated atmosphere escalated, assaults against residents and tourists occurred, as did thefts, beatings, stabbings, and the sexual harassment of women.
The mayor of Peschiera del Garda, Orietta Gaiulli, had some forewarning of the onslaught, since it was a recurring event that has grown in size and aggression over the years: “the first year there were 200, the year after, 500, and yesterday 2000.” Although many stores, including those in the neighboring town of Castelnuovo del Garda, had closed as a precaution, and although the police had also increased their staff, the event still got out of hand. Gaiulli felt abandoned by the regional administration, which she had asked for help to prevent the escalation.
Already on the train to Peschiera, young women were sexually harassed. A group of 16- and 17-year-old teenage girls was surrounded, groped, and taunted by a group of about 30 men: “We were surrounded. The heat was suffocating, and some of us fainted,” said one of the victims. She also said she was being sexually assaulted while trying to move to a different train car, and was told “white women don’t go up here.” Even though the train was filled with passengers, no one intervened to stop the assault until one boy came to the rescue of the victims and helped them get off at the next stop.
In Peschiera itself, tempers got heated after a theft. Fights with sticks and knives broke out, and the mob’s fury turned against stores, whose windows were smashed with stones and bottles. Tourists and locals were attacked, the mob chanted “reconquest” and “we have come to take back Peschiera,” all the while waving North African flags. When riot police were finally deployed, they clashed with the mob.
On TikTok, one participant with a Moroccan flag called for the riots to continue in the seaside resort of Riccione near Rimini: “Peschiera was just to warm up—let’s see how it goes in Riccione.” This time, however, security forces knew to nip it in the bud.
In Italy, the incident brought back memories of the sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve in Milan, which also involved mostly young migrant men, and sparked a renewed debate about integration. Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, called for harsh consequences against the perpetrators: “the idea must not pass that events like these can become ordinary or even worse, that we can become accustomed to it. We have never even adapted to the fact of putting alarms in the house and thinking of closing ourselves inside. I repeat, zero tolerance,” he said.
Former interior minister and leader of the Lega, Matteo Salvini, called for the punishment of perpetrators, even if that meant lowering the age of criminal responsibility, as well as the expulsion of those unwilling to integrate: “if you don’t feel comfortable in Italy, ciao, ciao, it’s a big world.”