Integration minister Cecile Kyenge reacts during a press conference in Rome. (AFP photo)
Italy's first black minister, a target of racist slurs since her appointment in April, has condemned a spectator who threw bananas towards her while she was making a speech at a party rally.
Integration minister Cecile Kyenge, who was born in Democratic Republic of Congo, has angered far-right groups with her campaign to make it easier for immigrants to gain Italian citizenship.
Shortly before the incident on Friday, members of the right-wing Forza Nuova group left mannequins covered in fake blood at the site of the rally in Cervia, central Italy, in protest against Kyenge's proposal to make anyone born on Italian soil a citizen.
"Immigration kills," was written on leaflets accompanying the dummies - a slogan Forza Nuova has previously used when referring to murders committed by immigrants in Italy.
Although the bananas missed the stage where Kyenge was speaking, she responded to the gesture on Twitter, calling it "sad" and a waste of food, considering the economic crisis.
"The courage and optimism to change things has to come above all from the bottom up to reach the institutions," she added.
Kyenge has faced regular insults since becoming minister, often from other politicians. Earlier this month a senior parliamentarian in the anti-immigration Northern League party likened her to an orangutan and only apologised after a storm of criticism.