About 50 migrants from a migrant reception center in Foggia clashed with police in an attempt to prevent two police officers from arresting a 26-year-old Gambian they had stopped for a check, according to the Italian police union SAP.
Two police officers were wounded when migrants surrounded them and allegedly began to assault them by kicking, punching, and throwing objects, in an attempt to prevent the officers from arresting a migrant, the police union SAP said.
Other police squads arrived to stop the violence, which took place in a shantytown near the migrant reception center in Borgo Mezzanone, about 15 km outside Foggia in the southern Italian region Apulia, where numerous migrants have been camped out for some time.
According to the police union SAP, there were "about 50" migrants involved in the attack, and the union is calling for "better protection for police officers working on the streets, such as tasers".
The wounded officers from the police department in Cerignola were hospitalized.
Chase of a Gambian citizen
The incident began with a check on migrant farm workers employment conditions and illegal immigration. The officers signaled a car speeding towards Borgo Mezzanone to stop, but rather than stopping, the driver allegedly attempted to run the officers over.
A chase ensued, which continued on country roads and ended when the Gambian citizen driving the car stopped his car in the shantytown near the migrant reception center. The two officers got out of their car and began chasing the man, and managed to stop him despite his resistance as well as that of several migrants who, accoding to police, intervened, kicking and punching the officers to try to help the man escape. Additional police squads arrived to break up the fighting.
The Gambian man, Omar Jallow, 26, has a criminal record and was arrested for resisting arrest, violence and wounding a public official.
Police call for increased protection
"The intervention of other squads prevented worse from happening. Episodes like this are not new, and certainly, part of what pushes people like this to commit crimes is the knowledge that they will go unpunished," said Francesco Pulli, national secretary of police union SAP.
"There must be serious penalties for those who do not respect the rules, and there must be better protections for police working on the street, such as tasers, for example. If the opposite had happened, no one would have hesitated to say it was racism. It's time for those who make mistakes to pay, and for the police to be put in a condition to defend themselves and operate in complete safety in situations like this, to give a positive signal to the community," he said.