I WONDER how many of the keyboard warriors came out and took part in Govanhill's International Roma Day celebrations?

At a guess, the guess would be not many.

But surely if you're going to complain relentlessly online about how the Roma are destroying your community, you'd want to get involved in a positive event where you might be able to meet your neighbours, forge bonds and build bridges that would improve the issues you complain about? Surely?

On Saturday, to mark an event that raises awareness of the discrimination and problems facing Roma people while also celebrating their culture, a procession was held through Govanhill, an area of Glasgow with Scotland's highest Roma population.

There was dancing, traditional food, speeches and even a play. A pretty good day out by anyone's standards.

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Meanwhile, last week it was reported by our sister paper The Herald that Roma families are being moved from their homes in Rome after their safety was threatened by violent protests from neo-fascist groups.

Attacks on Roma people in Italy have been linked to claims on social media that "gypsies" – or 'zingari' in Italian – steal children. This is known by experts as a race libel, an offensive rumour that follows a particular race of people wherever they go.

If that sounds familiar, it's because we've had the same conversations in Glasgow. Roma people have been accused of selling their children on the streets of Govanhill for sex and, despite an extensive police operation finding no evidence of this, the rumours persist.

Last summer, the Roma in Govanhill were accused of stealing and eating the ducks from the pond in Queen's Park, again, without any evidence to back this up.

A quick glance at some recent content on a Facebook page set up for Govanhill residents sees a slew of negative rhetoric.

From one person: "If people would learn to put rubbish in a bin and not break into people's houses or rob old folk then maybe us folks in Govanhill would not need to be racist."

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Another writes: "Now the Muslims and Eastern Europeans have come and the place goes to s***. Rape is at an all time high, muggings and burglary is at an all time high. Explain this please."

Another chap tells a story of walking through Govanhill in the middle of the day, spotting two young men he assumed were both Roma and about to rob him, so he physically shoved one of them out of the way and smiled at him as he went flying.

With Brexit, we're at a perfect storm for racist narratives to take hold. Nicola Sturgeon has written an open letter to our EU-born Scots telling them they are "welcome here, we value your contribution and we want you to stay."

And an a recent Ipsos Mori poll for the BBC would suggest the majority of people in Britain agree with Ms Sturgeon. A survey of 20,000 adults in 27 countries found on average nations are about 24 per cent positively disposed to immigrants. In Britain, the number is a stand-out 48 per cent. And this is recent development too, marking a change in attitude since 2015.

It's a sensible attitude: last week immigration expert Professor Rebecca Kay told Holyrood’s External Affairs Committee that some communities in Scotland will cease to exist if they can't attract migrants of working age. We need migrants and we want them here.

Yet negatives attitudes still abound. Scotland's national anti-bullying charity Respectme has worked with Strathclyde University and University of the West of Scotland to create new classroom resources to deal with an increase in racist bullying of European-born pupils.

The rise has been charted since the 2016 Brexit vote and has particularly affected pupils born in eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary and Romania.

Teachers are asked to look at empathy by learning about the experiences of EU pupils in their classrooms.

As adults, there's no such handy way of getting everyone in a room and learning from each other.

What might happen if people who have the spare time and energy to post vitriol online channelled that energy into attending one of the many groups in Govanhill working with Roma people? We all have choices when dealing with difficult situations. Do we want scenes like those in Italy?

Or more scenes like those from Saturday's International Roma Day march? We all know the answer is the latter - can we do something about it?

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