It is easy to understand why the earthquake victims are so angry. Just look around: There have been no changes in Arquata del Tronto since Aug. 24, when the earthquake demolished the town. The gutted houses, the rubble piled in the streets, the deep cracks on the walls left standing.
In recent months, only earthquakes seemed to remember the earthquake victims, with a cluster of seismic activity that only in recent weeks has begun to slow down. There have been tens of thousands tremors of varying intensity. Every time the victims felt them, it was a reminder of their nightmare.
Under the town’s citadel, on Salaria Road, hundreds gathered Saturday morning to express their displeasure (an understatement) at a reconstruction that has never really begun. They blocked the road with tractors and held signs, all under the slogan “The re-shock of the earthquake victims.” Their logo is a shattered heart, and each banner bears the name of the towns they represent: not only Amatrice, Accumoli and Arquata, certainly, but also Castelluccio di Norcia, Visso, Pieve Torrina and other Macerata towns destroyed in the second seismic wave in late October.
Protesters chanted: “The earth trembles, we don’t.” Around them, police looked on, while the local police tried to divert the traffic on Salaria Road, where a bottleneck of massive proportions formed, with queues of over an hour after Acquasanta Terme, in the direction of Rome.
After the great earthquake, the inhabitants were simply taken away from their destroyed towns, out of sight and away from their heart. They were whisked away to the Adriatic coast where they were housed in hotels, in makeshift houses, and with friends and relatives. The promises made in recent months by the central and regional governments are empty words on paper, and seven months have passed since the first promise of “we will not leave you alone.”
First Matteo Renzi, then Paolo Gentiloni were immortalized several times as they walked through the rubble in the Marche, Lazio and Umbria provinces, but their words were not followed by actions. A long winter — which put additional burden on the situation — has passed, spring was announced as the season of rebirth, but there are no signs of reconstruction. It feels as if time has not passed, and people have run out of patience: After several delays, no deadline was met.
Protesters took to the streets in 10 towns and also in Rome, in front of the Parliament and the Pantheon, representing 131 municipalities.
“We’re delivering an ultimatum to the government,” earthquake victims said. “There are no houses, no prospects and no information. Nothing is operational, the decrees issued by the government have not been implemented and everything is standing still. Gentiloni speaks of non-existent facts: The €1 billion he promised is nowhere to be found.” And they made a promise: “If we don’t get concrete results soon, we are ready to block the country.” A bleak fact captures the situation: Only 25 houses were delivered in seven months.
The protesters say: “We want a timetable. And don’t say there is no money because when it comes to saving a bank, there are never any problems. We deserve respect.” Among the crowd, you can see some of the mayors, several faces that have become known in these difficult months, wearing sweatshirts with the names of their towns, and T-shirts with the slogan “Daje Marche.” In the protest held in the capital, someone dressed as an ancient Roman held a sign that said: “We built the Pantheon in 330 days. What have you done in seven months?”
Every official who, for various reasons, is involved on the reconstruction is in the crosshairs: In addition to the federal government and the regions. There is also harsh criticism against the commissioner for the reconstruction Vasco Errani. There are even those who long for the actions of Bertolaso in Aquila, a detail that says a lot about how the earthquake victims are on their last strength.
“We want a table with the government, the leaders of the House and Senate and Errani, and we want all this within a week,” the protesters demanded. ”We are tired of waiting and listening to promises that are never kept.”
At the end of the day, among the silence in the buildings, Gentiloni made it known that “the earthquake victims are a top priority. You will see it in the budget.” The ill-concealed hope is to silence the protest. It will not go away so easily.