A Gambian man has been apprehended by Italian police in downtown Milan while climbing up a Christmas tree in a bid to remove a cross at its apex. Following a psychiatric examination, the man was admitted to a secure hospital.
A 21-year-old man from the Gambia was arrested by Italian police as he attempted to climb up the illuminated Christmas tree erected in Milan’s Piazza Duca d’Aosta on Friday, ANSA reported. Confronted by police about his odd behavior, the man had nothing to say other than “the tree is not good” while pointing to the cross, Il Giornale reports.
Police then took him into custody and in due course brought him to the immigration office to be deported. This was where officers found out that the 21-year-old had already been granted permanent resident status under the refugee protection scheme in the province of Brindisi. Since the man had permanent residence in Brindisi, the officers intended to send him back to the province. However, the man began behaving erratically and was sent to a medical ward in a Milanese hospital as a precaution.
The incident came just a few days after the square was turned into a Tunisian marketplace by the Tunisian Tourist Board which rented the downtown square for a weekend. For this occasion, a giant Arabic gate was set up facing the Christmas tree.
The idea aimed at promoting Tunisian music, dance, crafts, arts and culture to woo potential tourists did not sit well with some of the locals, who saw it as a sign of an alien culture’s encroachment on Italy’s traditions.
“After the Tunisian gate in the middle of the square, all we needed was an African citizen trying to steal the symbols of Christmas,” Riccardo De Corato, Milan’s former deputy mayor, told ANSA.
Samuele Piscina from the right-wing Northern League, president of the town hall where the square is located, noted that the square had become one of the few places where the town hall is banned from putting up a Christmas market despite its being “the most desirable place from the commercial point of view.”
“It is not clear what the criteria are for the square to be closed so that the town hall can erect an Arabic structure, especially at Christmas,” he said, as cited by Loreto Today.