Alessio Pascucci is 36 years old, and since 2012 he has been the mayor of Cerveteri, a town of almost 40,000 inhabitants located about 50 kilometers north of Rome. He leads a civic left-wing group and is the coordinator of Italia in Comune, the political party (as they insist in defining themselves) founded by Federico Pizzarotti, formerly of the M5S.
On Thursday, Pascucci put pen to paper and wrote a public “confession,” declaring himself a willing accomplice of Mimmo Lucano, the mayor of Riace who has been held under house arrest since Tuesday for alleged crimes connected to the reception of migrants. “If the civil disobedience of a mayor will help put into practice the principles of solidarity and hospitality, we declare ourselves, all of us, guilty and accomplices,” wrote Pascucci, who has a degree in artificial intelligence and, as he himself pointed out, is a loyal reader of our newspaper.
What would you do if you found yourself in Lucano’s situation?
There is a fundamental principle: when saving a life is at stake, one has to set prudence aside. For instance, if I had to falsify an ID card to save someone’s life, I would definitely do it. I would do it out of respect for the principles of the Constitution, for our roots and our culture. If there was a Nigerian girl who risked being sent away to a place where her life would be in danger and I could do something to save her, I would have to do it. In the past, those who saved the lives of Jews did so in violation of the laws that were in force at the time. And let me also point out that you can’t compare such small illegal acts to the €49 million that the Lega was granted on dubious grounds.
Are the measures taken against Lucano disproportionately harsh?
I know Mimmo Lucano and the excellent work he did in Riace. I’m not a lawyer, but I can say that the preventive measures taken against him are truly excessive: he is not a flight risk, nor is he likely to tamper with evidence, nor is there any likelihood that he would commit again such crimes as he is being accused of.
It is a political attack, then?
I want to say in no uncertain terms that as an Italian citizen, I am ashamed when Matteo Salvini openly gloats about Lucano’s arrest, rails against someone who everyone knows is one of his political opponents, and describes him as “less than zero.” Such things bring to mind the Fascist period. Now, I have no expectations from a person like Salvini, but generally I would expect that a Minister of the Interior would show respect for institutions.
Generally, your mayor colleagues are afraid of taking an unpopular position when discussing such topics.
As the mass media and politicians are talking about immigration and nothing else, the citizens stop being able to understand anything anymore. You see, because of government spending cuts, local administrators are forced to cut back on social services, care for the disabled, everyday services. And people think this is somehow the fault of immigrants. I will not go into the merits of the allegations that have been brought against the mayor of Riace, the judiciary will examine them. But it is often the case that we, the mayors, become the lightning rods for many things. For example, I am held responsible for actions that were carried out by the authorities who were in charge when I had not even been born.
What would you answer to those who would urge you to deal with the problems of your community instead of political issues?
Of course, I am taking care of the problems of the people in my city. But here we are faced with a democratic emergency, and one can no longer remain silent. Does it mean that we are in the minority? Will people not vote for us because we say out loud things that make people uncomfortable? It doesn’t matter, we’ll fight anyway. Whenever I get into an argument with the right-wing opposition, I always quote an intellectual that they seem to hold dear, Ezra Pound, who said: “If a man isn’t willing to take some risk for his opinions, either his opinions are no good or he’s no good.”
It’s a provocative quote, seeing that you also repeatedly called for the eviction of the local headquarters of CasaPound.
I am used to personal attacks against me. And I’m not going to stick to the role of a mere administrator. I have been saying since the campaign to everyone who wanted to vote for me that if I was elected mayor, I would do more than just fix the streetlights. Sure, I can fix up a road and make sure it’s clean, but if that road leads to nowhere, it’s not good for anything and anyone.