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Street hawkers protest after Senegal man's death (4)

(ANSA) - Rome, May 3 - Street hawkers blocked traffic in Rome Wednesday protesting the death of a Senegalese street hawker they said was knocked over by a traffic cop in civvies, a claim the police denied.

Nian Maguette, 54, died fleeing from a police check on illegal selling when he was knocked over by a traffic warden on a scooter in civilian clothing, other African hawkers said. They said a stain on the pavement near the riverside Lungotevere street was the blood of Maguette. "He was running away and slipped and banged his head," said one of the witnesses. Other witnesses reportedly said Maguette collapsed on his own, without being hit by any vehicle. An autopsy has been ordered into his death. Police gathered at the scene where the street hawkers protested the alleged incident, blocking the Lungotevere thoroughfare. Maguette was not run over by a traffic cop, Rome municipal police HQ said Wednesday, denying the hawkers' reports. "There is no direct link between the anti-illegal selling operation and the death of the Senegalese citizen which took place about 500 metres away," it said. "The agents who intervened say there was no pursuit," it said, voicing sympathy with the man's family and the whole Senegalese community. Police said they feared the protests might turn violent. Rome prosecutors opened a probe into Maguette's death, against person or persons unknown and without any charges as yet.

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