In Sicily one of the most common sentences is “Everything is useless here: the situation will never change!”.
I don’t believe it! And, luckly, there are many others people who are agree with me, like the members of Addipizzo.
Addiopizzo is a non-partisan movement and a volunteer association that opposes the Mafia System.
It promotes a virtuous economic system free from the control of the Mafia through a project called " Critical Consumption".
(One of the means through which the Mafia controls the economy is the so-called ”pizzo”: every month great part of the entrepreneurs, merchants etc. have to pay a sum of money to the Mafia in order to defend their activity from retaliations of the Mafia like robberies, fires etc.So literally the name of the association means “goodbye pizzo”)
The association was born in Palermo in 2004 by a group of 7 young people and then in Catania in 2006.the first activity of the group was to place stickers on the walls of the city with the words “an entire people who pay pizzo is a people without dignity”. This was the group’s presentation to the city.
“We are motivated by idealism, enthusiasm, anger and pride. And the worry about the difficulties that we will create the mafia when we get to the places of production and decision of the Sicily” they said in a letter published on a national newspaper.
This presentation caused an immediate reaction: a few days later also in other 5 sicilian cities the stickers were placed on the walls.
The stickers are one of the tools that Addiopizzo is continuing to use in order to sensibilize the population and it is possible downloading them from the web. So everyone can be able to do this sensibilization activity.
In recent years the activitys of Addiopizzo is divided between two projects: Critical Consumption and Schools Project.
Critical Consumption is a project that wants to support merchants who do not submit to the extortion racket, creating a network of aware consumers who commit themselves to go to those merchants for their purchases.
The initiative combats the extorsions addressing a interlocutor never considered before: the consumer.
If the consumer buys from those who pay protection money, funds the Mafia. Many citizens aren’t aware of this.
The project is divided into two phases: collect signatures of citizens, drawing up the list of merchants’ “pizzo free "to be presented to the citizens.
Addiopizzo thus seeks to eliminate the possibility of isolation of those who make a difficult choice and encourage those who have not yet denounced.
Schools Project: organization of meeting in the schools about legal education with the participation of judges, anti-racket associations and entrepreneurs who have rebelled against the extortion racket.
I’m one of the citizens engaged in a critical consumption. It is only a little action, but I think that it is extremely useful.
A few days ago I interviewed Salvatore, one of the founder of Addiopizzo Catania, and Irene, a member of the association.
IRENE, 25 years old, student
Why did you become a member of Addiopizzo?
I admired the group so much and then I decided to come in action and it has been a revolution in my life: Addiopizzo has been giving a deep sense to my life because I’m feeling useful, with a biggest and highest goal than the only living. I’m celebrating also the better men of my island.
The meeting with Addiopizzo was one of the most important in my life.
Do you feel in danger for what you do?
No, I don’t. I’ve never felt in danger, also because I am not in danger. 20 years ago Libero Grassi ( an entrepreneur) died because was the only one who didn’t want to pay the pizzo, but today with Addiopizzo there are 600 merchants in Sicily who claim that they don’t submit to blackmail of the Mafia. And so… why would I feel in danger?
There is a sentence of Goethe that says “ the fear knocked the door, the courage opened, but there was nobody”
SALVATORE, 42 years, policeman
How do you support yourself?
My work for Addiopizzo is volunteer. I’m a cop. The coordination of the 2 work is difficult because I’m working in a investigation department, so time is often difficult to predict and I have also a family.
How was Addiopizzo Catania borned?
Addiopizzo Catania was born in 2006. We were 30 at that time . We began, as in palermo, with sticking to the walls of adhesives and then we have been developped a serious of projects. Today the association has 20 members.
With Addiopizzo Palermo we’re sharing some projects like “critical consumption”, but we are more engaged in the social field with the project “ give a smile! “. We take care of the so called “invisibles” in the city and every year we organize also a lottery whose income goes to charity. This year the lottery’s income will be given to a girl paraplegic following his involvement in a mafia shootout while she was going out from the university.
What does your family think about your engagement for Addiopizzo?
I have the totally support of my family. I couldn’t do anything without the endorsement of my wife.
Why do you engage your time for Addiopizzo?
In Sicily we are very good to complain , but if you ask to someone “what are you doing to change the situation?”, few of us can say that we are engaging effectively doing something.
I have a 4 years old son and when you will grow up, I want to tell him that his father was a policeman and that I did something for our homeland. So I hope that my son will live in a better environment and will engage to improve it for his children.
What is the relationship between Addiopizzo and the institutions? Do you think that you are working instead of them?
No, I don’t think so. Our action is a stimulus. We are a goad for the institutions.
We have extremely good relationships above all with the Prefecture and the Prosecutor. They are often with us in the schools. The Catania Province gave us a financial aid to refurbish our head office that is a structure confiscated from the Mafia.
Do you feel in danger?
No! There isn’t a danger because is only a common thought that the merchants who denounce, risk their life. The risck exist if only one denounces , but if they are a group all became more simple and less dangerous. Nobody of us feels in danger… (silence…) We aren’t heroes. We are only a group of guys who loves Sicily and we do what we think being right and due to improve this territory for our children.