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Outrage in Italy over black minister banana attack

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The latest racist attack against Italy's first black minister Cecile Kyenge, pictured July 16, 2013, in which a banana was hurled at her during a rally, sparked outrage across the political spectrum. (AFP/File)

The latest racist attack against Italy's first black minister, in which a banana was hurled at her during a rally, sparked outrage across the political spectrum Saturday.

Immigration Minister Cecile Kyenge was speaking at a Democratic Party (PD) rally on Friday when an unidentified spectator threw a banana at her, missing the stage but sparking reactions of disgust from across the country.

Shocking cases of abuse have multiplied against Kyenge, an Italian citizen born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, climaxing earlier this month with a member of the anti-immigration Northern League party who likened her to an orangutan.

Kyenge, who has refused to rise to the bait or write Italy off as racist, immediately reacted to the banana attack by slamming it as "a waste of food."

Social networks lit up with reactions, and ministers and political bigs took to Twitter to voice their anger and support for Kyenge.

"Another shameful and disgraceful gesture. Solidarity with the Minister Kyenge. Now let's just isolate the fools," Rome's former Mayor Gianni Alemanno said.

Italy's environment minister Andrea Orlando expressed "utter indignation for the wretched act", while the agriculture minister, Nunzia De Girolamo, said "Kyenge has shown that faced with idiotic and violent acts, sometimes the best weapon is irony."

Many called for Kyenge to stand firm and continue the fight to eradicate racism.

Tensions were running high even before the banana incident, after members of the country's right-wing Forza Nuova association left life-size dolls doused in fake blood at the rally.

The group was protesting over Kyenge's campaign to help children born in Italy to foreign parents obtain citizenship more easily.

Forza Nuova denied it had anything to do with the fruit incident.

Italy, which for decades was a land of emigration, has relatively little experience in dealing with immigration.

While millions of Italians fleeing poverty emigrated to the United States, Latin America and other parts of Europe throughout the Twentieth century, the Mediterranean country has only had to absorb large numbers of immigrants over the past 20 years or so, mainly from Africa.

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