Around 2,000 US Army soldiers have been banned from one of the main streets in the Italian city of Vicenza after a brawl between soldiers and locals.
The temporary ban, which affects members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade stationed in the city, involves the quaint via Contra’ Pescherie Vecchie, where two young Vicenza men say they were surrounded and beaten by several soldiers after a verbal exchange just outside a popular watering hole for off duty combat paratroopers.
“This is not my face. I was not like this before,” Riccardo Passaro, 21, told La Repubblica from the hospital where he is recovering from reconstructive facial surgery after his jaw was shattered. City authorities are studying CCTV images to identify the culprits of the latest violent episode, which prompted Mayor Francesco Rucco to request special restrictive measures from the base commander.
Col. Kenneth Burgess issued a memo warning that personnel caught entering the restricted zone during the 45-day ban faced disciplinary sanctions.
“It is a decree without precedent in Vicenza and for this we thank the American authorities," Mayor Rucco said. The US military presence in Vicenza has been expanding for the last decade, with construction of the large Del Din annex north of the historic Ederle garrison to help lodge US Africa Command and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which conducts contingency response and NATO ally training in Europe.
Vicenza’s 113,000 inhabitants now intermingle, mostly peacefully, with more than 12,000 Americans, including military family members and employees of the two bases bookending the city.
But an uptick in problems related to heavy drinking, violence and public disorder since the expansion has exasperated locals.
In 2014, several rape investigations and a car crash in the city centre involving three pedestrians made headlines. In 2016 and 2017 there were bloody brawls involving injuries and property damage. And in 2018, police intervened 550 times in violent incidents involving Americans, prompting new joint night patrols this year by U.S. military police and Italian Carabinieri.