Addiopizzo. Aware consumers against the Mafia system

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.

The strength in (small) numbers

Wow, this is really exciting. So, one person refusing to pay protection money is incurring great personal danger. But  600 people doing the same are at zero risk. The threat of physically harming 600 people is simply not credible, As simple as that. So, with common pledges, simple coordination tools and a little communication to let people know that other are refusing are enough to kill the whole issue.

This is really amazing, because 600 people are a really small number. I have 2000 Twitter followers! What it means, in my understanding, is that a tiny, but connected and motivated minority can finally call some shots instead of being in the hands of Joe Sixpack. If we can figure out how to make the best of this, we can really push through a lot of change.

exactly!

yes, they are 600 and none of them suffered retaliation! the other anti-racket associations don’t diffuse the names of who denounces. AddioPizzo makes public names and surnames and addresses of their workplaces. Out of their shops there is a sticker “pizzo free” and who, like me, has joined the list of critical consumers, looks for to do as much as possible their purchases there.

there is still much work to do, but I think that the “strength in numbers” is really the key for the change.

MY ASSOCIATION…ASK WHATEVER YOU WANT ABOUT ADDIOPIZZO!!!

hei that’s great that  someone else is writing about my association…I am one of the founders of Addiopizzo (not one of the so called 7…) and I was part of the group who was in charge of the actual creation of the critical consumption campaign.

Well if there is something you are curious about feel free to ask me, I will be happy tlo share my experience with you all!

Elisabetta

I Sicilians

(I even wrote a song about them)

So I am going to ask you both: what is the main hurdle to prevent Addiopizzo from growing? I mean: “Pizzo free” shopkeepers have not been retaliated against, and they are saving money with respect to their non-pizzo free colleagues. So what’s stopping other shopkeepers to say, “oh, what the hell” and refuse to pay?

se non sono ancora stanchi non si stancheranno mai!

well beside the fact that you could be happy to know that the “Antica Focacceria” belongs to list…

there is a combination of cultural, social and economical aspects which makes difficult the growth of Addiopizzo:

paying is so normal that it’s a matter of social behavior more than a matter of money. The increase in earning is not so huge as you could imagine since the “pizzo” is always “proportioned” to the business size.

many of the shopkeepers in the list NEVER PAID (either because they have never been asked for or because they said “no” at the first request)

finally, it’s also a metter of energy and forces: at the very beginning ADDIOPIZZO was something innovative and very fascinating, now there are less people involved (for different reasons…) : the increase in the number of shops in the list was much higher in a couple of years and it was not proportional.

it’s a great idea and a great success but it can still improve…of course!

the untouchable saints

Elisabetta, what surprise to find you here!

First of all I want to tell you thank you for your engagement. I know how much is difficult in Sicily doing something like this and so again thank you! :slight_smile:

Alberto, I agree with Elisabetta about the reasons of the list’s slow increase. Also Salvatore told me something about the less number of people involved in the association also because become a member is an important engagement and so they are very serious with the requests of the new potential “addiopizzini”.

In Catania another problem about the increase of the list is that are the guys of the associations to go in the shops and other commercial activities to talk about Addiopizzo. Salvatore said me that at the beginning in Palermo there was an entreprenuer who engaged itself in the activity of sensibilization.

Perhaps the proposal done by an entreprenuer or another shopkeeper to a collegue is more listened then the same proposal done by a student.

I have also a question to you, Elisabetta. I know the campaigns of sensibilization done during the days of the celebration for the saint patron of Palermo and Catania. This campaigns (with related stickers on the walls of the cities) have connected the organizations of these celebrations with the Mafia system, how also demonstrated by important tvs and newspapers. But in Sicily a great part of population considers these celebrations like untouchable and unassailable. So do you think that these activities has been harmful for the increase of Addiopizzo?

p.s. Alberto that song was the soundtrack of all the demonstrations I have done :slight_smile:

the SAINTS

well, Alessia that’s a good question.

First of all I don’t know so much about the demonstrations in Catania for the celebration of Sant’Agata so I can just talk about Palermo.

I was not there during the year Addiopizzo did these stickers but, for what I remember of the discussions about it, the main message was “SANTA ROSALIA LIBERACI DAL PIZZO” so the connection Mafia/celebration was not in the stickers. Of course this connection exists and we talked about with newspapers and tvs but that’s different from the stickers.

as usual there are different levels of communication.

i agree with you that it can be risky because of the importance of this celebration for people so that’s why it is necessary to be very careful when you organize such an action.

On the other hand, as I wrote before, it’s a social and cultural matter so it takes time…

In any case i think that the increase or the decrease of Addiopizzo is related to a wide range of aspects so it is very difficult to make evaluations.

Amazing, amazing post - this is really marvelous

Fantastic, thank you so much for doing this and writing about it.

I’m genuinely moved.

:slight_smile:

oh, Vinay! you have a soft heart! :slight_smile:

I’m happy when I can tell about people and things that  give hope and make me proud.

The way to go

Dry up Mafia’s money supply - this approach is just great!

Also reminds me of an idea that I nearly forgot about. The inspiration was another activism approach that starts with customer behavior: In Al Jazeera’s documentation on slave labor in Brazil there is a part about Free2Work, an ingenious “app-tivism” initiative to end slave labor with the help of bar codes and smartphones: you point your smartphone on a product’s bar code and the app fetches and displays a rating on how clean of slave labor thsi product is, with full transparency by breaking it down into 40 factors (also available on their website to check).

It appears to me that we could bundle all corporate behavior related activism issues into one integrated portal (and smartphone apps). All groups would contribute their data, and in the end there’s a one-stop place for buyers to go to to find out factors to influence people’s buying decisions. There would be no big “overall rating” for products and businesses, or people would have to configure it themselves, because opinions can differ (like about being vegane and global warming). But the list of factors might include, among others:

  • Crime factors. Is this shop pizzo free? Is the product corruption free?
  • Freedom rights. Is this product slave labor free (incl. prison labor, child labor, bonded labor)? What is the wage level and work conditions of the workers producing this? Is this product produced in countries respecting women's rights, minorities' rights, Internet freedoms, and human rights in general?
  • Sustainability. Is this product produced in eco-sustainable ways (including sustainable use of fishing, forests, minerals, fossil fuels)? Is this product produced as locally as possible, or is insane transportation involved?
  • Nature protection. Is this product ozone-friendly? Is this product vegan?
  • Responsibility. Is the gain from this product ultimately used to give back to society, or just for private consumption and for accumulating power? Is any financial speculation on food prices etc. supported from this product?
All this data gathering about companies and supply chains and all this data crunching seems quite an (impossible?) effort, but it would really fix the problem that evildoers can proceed just because nobody notices.

Anybody knows of an existing effort in this direction? Have not found anything yet.

Consumer information

Apps are just a way to convey consumer information… which can be positive, not just negative, and lead to a positive competitive advantage. In the US they do “carrot mobs” or “cash mobs”: people show up at a local shop on  a certain day and they do their shopping there, a concrete way to say “we appreciate what you are doing in the community”. The first one in Italy took place a few weeks ago, in Milano. The Milano people are now in touch with like-minded people elsewhere.

http://www.cashmobmilano.it/

It’s also art

Never heard of cashmobs before - thanks for the hint, Alberto. Seems to be one of the most useful forms of art these days. Also I had to read your post about “positive customer information” twice, but I think I got it finally: the difference of boycott vs. buycott. Fighting against or fighting for something. Will consider it …

idea and link

Neodynos, your idea of the integrated portal is fantastic! Without doubt it would be a great effort…

Are you working on this idea? I’d like to know more about it.

Alberto, thank you for the link! I’ll talk about cashmob to AddioPizzo.

ADDIOPIZZO is a fantastic story!

It’s great to see AddioPizzo here as well.

I had the big fortune to conduct a research on this “best prectice”, in 2008, and meet these guys who invented it in Palermo: great great experience! AddioPizzo was almost at the beginning (actually they already set up the Antiracket Association “Libero Futuro” and they were already considered significant for the capture of the Mafia boss Lo Piccolo) but I felt quickly amazed for their original method to cope with the Mafia and the Pizzo!

Nice to meet you Alessia.

the method

Ciao Stefano! Nice to meet you and welcome on Edgeryders!

Yes, the AddioPizzo method is as simple as amazing and it requires a very hard work…

I’ll read your mission. I’m curious about your interests.

Great story. An idea for an AntimafiaCamp

Ciao Alessia,

thank you for sharing your story. Addio Pizzo is such a great example of what people can achive when they organize themselves and act directly and in a “critical” way for the better of their city and/or country. I really like these guys, met them a few times.

Between 2009 and 2011 I co-organized a festival in Milan called “Settimana contro le mafie a Milano” (“7 days against mafia in Milan” http://www.facebook.com/MilanoControLeMafie) and we - citizens and associations - tried to make our city (where the biggest criminal organizations do their biggest businesses, on a national and international level) think and inform themselves about this huge, mostly hidden, problem.

Finally the local administration, at the end of 2011, decided to create an official commission to prevent mafia businesses from spreading even more and to fight corruption. People became more conscious about mafia penetrion in our area.

I really would like to talk with you to organize an “AntimafiaCamp” next fall in Italy, to support the antimafia movement and create a network of people using technology and innovative ways to empower themselves and each of us against mafia and corruption.

Looking forward to meet you at the conference in the next days :slight_smile:

being part of Addiopizzo…good idea (the antimafiacamp)!

I alessio

I had heard about the “settimana contro le mafie” since I actually belong to Addiopizzo.

You are right, even if it is not perfect, Addiopizzo is a very interesting experiment!

I am one of the coufounder of the association and I am therefore very involved in the issue. So if you want any contact for the camp or any other exchange of ideas…let’s meet in Strasbourg: I will be there (at the breakout session on Caring the Commons).

see you then!

Betta: ok!

Ciao Betta,

very happy to hear from you :slight_smile: Nice meeting you here (and for real very soon).

I’d love to exchange ideas about the camp. Let’s meet in Strasbourg. Supercool.

A presto.