PALERMO — Comittee Addiopizzo was started by a group of young Italians in Sicily against the Mafia.
They wanted to start a bar, but one of them asked:
“What if they ask us for the pizzo?”'Pizzo' are the extortion payments made by local businesses for protection. The group says:
We have found a new strategy to fight mafia: critical shopping against pizzo. The campaign “Against pizzo change your shopping habits” wants to create a group of consumers in Palermo and in the region, ready to support businesses who stand up against racket and, overcoming fear, denounce their extorters.“A WHOLE PEOPLE WHO PAYS THE PIZZO IS A PEOPLE WITHOUT DIGNITY” say stickers all over Palermo.
Those businesses are listed on their website. Over 7000 Sicilians have also put their names down.
Safety in numbers and this is the first time this has happened in Palermo.
The local business association, Confindustria, has now signed on - they will expel anyone found to be paying pizzo.
And they now know who many of those businesses are - and how much they were paying - as lists were found when bosses Berndando Provenzano and Lo Piccolo were arrested last year. Half Palermo's businesses are estimated to pay.
Sicilian authorities are now aggressively prosecuting those who refuse to testify against the Mafia in clear-cut cases of extortion, charging them with "aiding and abetting" Cosa Nostra.
"Now it is a bigger risk for us to pay than not to pay," said Ugo Argiroffi, an engineer who recently added his Palermo construction company, C.O.C.I. to Addiopizzo's list
The website is undermining the 'culture of fear', raising real hope of an end to the one a a half century long stranglehold of the 'shadow state'.
"This rebellion goes to the heart of the Mafia," said Palermo prosecutor Maurizio De Lucia, who has investigated extortion cases for years. "If it works, we will have a great advantage in the fight against the Mafia."Unfortunately, some things are lost forever:
`It's a happy coincidence'' that Provenzano's capture corresponds to the banding together of businesses and consumers against the mob, Vittorio Greco, a University of Palermo professor and Comittee Addiopizzo founder said. ``The police forces were able to capture Provenzano just as civil society was able to reach this goal.
Villa Deliella, one of Palermo's historical monuments destroyed by Mafia corruption
And Addiopizzo has built on many before it, such as their hero, Libero Grassi, a merchant killed in 1991 for refusing to pay pizzo.
Libero Grassi has not been forgotten. A new station of Palermo's metro (underground) line and a technical school have been named in his honour. Recently a Palermo fashion show televised nationally was dedicated to his memory. He didn't consider himself exceptional.Other Sicilians are also using the Web to spread the message, inspired by Committee Addiopizzo:
- Addiopizzo in Catania, Scicily's second-largest City.
TGR SICILIA TV news report
Palermo, November 15, 1983. Benedetto Grado's wife and daughters at the scene of his slaying. The family was already mourning his son Antonio. Mafia violence has felled generations of Sicilians, innocents and implicated.
· [Photoessay] Franco Zecchin: Fifteen Years of Mafia