It is evident this is an extraordinary event for this battered strip of Calabria. On the break of dawn, the obstruction of cars and buses led from the state road 106 into the provincial road, and then to Via Cusumano, towards the seafront.
At Locri, spring has the morning color of the Ionian sea and the huge rainbow flag that opens the Libera procession in the National Day of Commitment Against the Mafia. Some North African youngsters who landed in Calabria in recent months carry the flag. They are assisted by Frank Mbaye, cultural mediator, originally from Cameroon who moved to Milan in 2002 and then moved south to Locri. He tells us: “The kids are receiving literacy and Italian classes, they have presented the necessary documents and are waiting for the Commission’s decision on their asylum claims.”
This is a land of welcome, the “backbone of solidarity” of Riace, Caulonia and Badolato. But it’s also the damned land of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrese Mafia. In Locri, a tiny coastal piece of land that extends between Gioiosa and Bianco, with its hills that climb up to San Luca and Plati, the Mafia yoke is held by households with high-sounding and feared names. They are the Pelle, the Nirta, the Aquino, the Commisso, the Morabito, the Macri and the Ursino.
It was not easy for Libera, the anti-Mafia organization, to come down here and organize this event. But it worked. Twenty-five thousand people, a human tide walks behind the banner: “Places of hope and testimony of beauty.” The threatening messages on the eve against Luigi Ciotti have not affected anyone’s willingness to be there. And maybe, they even resulted in a multiplier effect. Those who have long memories cannot recall such a massive participation in parades in Calabria by decades.
The banners of municipalities of half of Italy took part in the parade, among the flags of associations, trade unions, leftist parties, scouts, students with huge yellow hands who hit the asphalt of the promenade, surrounded by palm trees and palms, the families of victims. It is their day, an anniversary of sadness and hope. They show pictures of their relatives, and are moved again today.
We came across Dodo Gabriele’s parents. On that bloody June 11, 2009, on the outskirts of Crotone, Dodo was hit in the head during a settling of scores among ‘ndrine (‘Ndrangheta members). He was only 11 years old. He was playing football when he was hit. He died in hospital a few months later. But Dodo did not die by accident, because there is nothing wrong in spending time doing what you like. When Dodo died, the life of his family also stopped, broken by a cruel tragedy. But then, the Gabriele family have started walking along with Libera, and realized that it was important to go ahead and tell about Dodo’s life.
Today, Dodo would be 18 years old. And now his parents are in the square, next to Gianluca Congiusta’s father. He was killed in Siderno on May 24, 2005. He was a 31-year-old merchant. His family chose to rebel against the pain and the slow justice. First his father Mario, then his sister Roberta have become the constant spur of the Calabrian civil society. Mario Congiusta took the stage to read his son’s name, among the 950 innocent victims of the Mafia.
Shortly before him, it was the turn of Senate President Pietro Grasso, who read the names of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Grasso is the only institutional figure present in Locri. The government has deserted the appointment. Among the absent, Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando (his participation was announced, but he has a fever) and the Minister of the Interior, the Calabrese Marco Minniti (he came on Sunday with Mattarella).
The latter must have felt his ears burning when Don Ciotti took the stage for the closing speech in front of a packed square. “We must fight poverty, not persecute the poor,” he proclaimed in a polemical reference to recent government decrees. ”We say no to the rhetoric of law and yes to social justice. And this is the real antidote to the Mafia plague. The Mafia kills not only with violence but also by forcing people into resignation and silence. The memory needs continuity. Memory is not a tombstone but sharing and co-responsibility. The Mafia lurks in indifference, in the quiet life, in pointing the finger while doing nothing and turning away.”
The president of Libera recalled Danilo Dolci (‘who taught me that education is a lifelong project”), quoted Corrado Alvaro (“we have the right to know not only what the representatives of the people have in their heads but also what they have in their pockets”) and thanked prime minister Gentiloni: “I was informed that the benefits of the Bacchelli law will be granted to Riccardo Orioles, the journalist who founded ‘I Siciliani’ with Pippo Fava.”
And so, in the words of Claudio Fava, vice president of the Anti-Mafia Commission, “for the first time a life spent writing about the Mafia and its unspeakable friends will be considered worthy of civil merit. Not just lonely doggedness.”