The ‘attack’ that triggered an angry 17-minute viral video in which a Maltese man threatened mass vengeance against black people if they touched his family again did not involve any violence and may not have been reported to the police.
Speaking publicly for the first time since uploading his video, Ryan Fenech explained the incident that led to his threat-filled tirade that has since become a major point of contention in Maltese society.
“According to my dad, he and my mum had parked in Buġibba to go for a stroll. They got out of the car, and when they started walking, there was a migrant,” Fenech told Lovin Malta, which has been trying to contact him since the video emerged.
“The man grabbed my dad’s hand out of nowhere, and said: ‘stop, I want to talk to you’. My dad told him ‘no, I don’t want to talk to you’ and tried to take his hand off… he didn’t know this man at all. But as my parents walked away, the man got up and started following them, saying ‘stop now, stop’. Then he said ‘stop or if I come near you, you’ll see what I do to you’.”
“My parents walked away as fast as they could even though they are elderly. My mum started panicking, saying: ‘Ejja Twan please stop’. When they tried to return to their car, the man was waiting for them there. My dad, a former police officer, put his hands in his pockets, said ‘Can you please stop following us?’ and they got in their car and drove away as the man watched them.”
Fenech claimed his father may have filed a police report following the incident. However, a police spokesperson said they were unable to find one.
Since uploading his video on Wednesday, Fenech has been arrested for the threats he made in his video and is set to face charges.
Fenech, a 35-year-old electrician who works in the construction industry, said he couldn’t believe he was being called a racist by some.
“All the Syrians that I work with have been calling me, livid that I’m being called a racist online,” Fenech said. “Maybe when I said ‘blacks’ people took it bad, especially since I’m not against anyone or their race, but I was angry because this could have been anyone’s parents.”
“I spend my days with migrant workers,” Fenech said, “Last time, one called the other the n-word. I said ‘what are you saying?’ and he said ‘I’m from Nigeria, look at our nice skin, and look how dark this guy is’ while pointing at another worker.”
“As I said, just like with every race, some of them are incredible people, with a heart of gold, and if you tell them you need something they’ll drop everything for you,” he said. “At the same time, how can it be that our parents cannot walk safely in their own homeland anymore?”
Fenech’s abrasive video, which has since been deleted after garnering 200,000 views and 5,000 shares online, has sparked a discussion on the national sentiment against migration and the limitations to freedom of speech.
“People from Canada and Australia have reached out to support me, it gives me shivers thinking about it,” he said. “We are one of those countries where when something like this happens, the people really come out and help each other,” he said.
Following the viral video, Fenech, the son of a former police officer, was arrested and spent the night locked up in a cell, an experience he described as “immensely sad”.
Since he is now set to face charges, a fundraiser has been set up to help him pay for any legal fees and fines… even though his lawyers have already said they’ll work for him pro bono.
Fenech’s also pledged to donate all the fundraised money to Puttinu Cares and animal shelters if he wins his court case: “that money isn’t mine. Only the money I make from my own work is mine”.