No one is safe nowadays. Quite the opposite: those who do something for the safety and the very survival of men, women and children, who are being exploited like slaves, now do so at their own peril. Witness what happened to Domenico Lucano, the mayor of Riace who was featured in Fortune for his revolutionary migrant reception system, who was arrested Tuesday at his home.
He has now been remanded to house arrest. The real cause of this outrageous police action was most likely his concrete stand against racism, and it is a sign of an escalation that knows no boundaries or limits. It is our humanitarian obligation, as well as our political duty, to react against this development with equal force and determination.
A national demonstration on immigration has been in the works since September, but it has run up against difficulties, including laziness and opportunism. The financial spread of Italian bonds is stoking more outrage nowadays than the Libyan detention camps. But after what just happened in Riace, further indecisiveness is nothing more than complicity in the rising tide of hatred.
A demonstration is scheduled for Saturday in Calabria, the region governed by Mario Oliverio, who has for a long time sided with the now-persecuted mayor. It was called by the associations working on immigration issues before the recent dramatic legal developments, and it was meant to draw attention to the plight of the migrants living in the plains at Gioia Tauro. But now the event has inevitably taken on a national significance.
Giuseppe Fiorello, the actor who starred in a RAI miniseries inspired by Mayor Lucano (which ended up shelved, proudly censored by the dubiously honorable Mr. Gasparri), is right when he says that “the mayor of Riace shouldn’t just be defended, he deserves to be loved.” Interior Minister Salvini, however, detests Lucano and has always treated him as a bitter enemy, while trying to play down his importance: “To me, the mayor of Riace is worth nothing.” This message, it seems, has been heard loud and clear by his subordinates, and has gone from mere words to action, with house arrest ordered for the mayor, while his partner is prohibited from residing at their home.
After facing down threats and warnings from the Mafia, the mayor—who took over a city in a region that was almost dead, but now has revived and is recovering its population—now stands accused of a bewildering variety of crimes. Clearly, a very wide net was cast around him, in order to try to find some legal transgression that would serve to justify his arrest.
The most weighty of the accusations against him, that of embezzlement, was thrown out by the judge (“there has been no unjust enrichment”)—but the other charges still hang over him, in addition to the most unforgivable of all sins: “abetting illegal immigration.”
Minister Salvini, himself elected to Parliament in Calabria, wants to get rid of all the immigrants and the Roma, as he repeats every day. He did so again Tuesday in Naples, riling up his fans against those he has in his crosshairs. But he is lying when he says that Mayor Lucano is of no importance to him, as is all too obvious: if they have to go to such lengths to arrest him, that means he is dangerous and that they are trying to keep his example from being followed. They are trying to put down a threat.
This government, with the disastrous combination of its two vice-prime ministers, has waged a scorched earth battle against the principles of humanity and charity. The Lega and the M5S have fought fiercely against the rescue work done by the NGOs (“sea taxis,” according to Di Maio), and now they are together poised to strike against the Riace model.
The yellow-green government has just delivered to the president what they think is their greatest achievement: the decree on security and immigration. It authorizes severe punitive measures against immigrants, such as the revocation of citizenship in the case of terrorism-related offenses. The precedent for this in Europe is France’s Socialist Hollande, who proposed a similar measure in the direct aftermath of the major terrorist strikes in that country. However, the measure did not pass, and it must be underlined that in France, immigrants—such as, for instance, the relatives of the boy who was gunned down in the migrant shantytown in San Ferdinando—while they have to contend with many problems, at least have decent housing.
President Mattarella is now examining the Salvini decree, which is set to pour fuel on the fire of the rising black-shirted tide. We don’t know if it will pass the scrutiny of the President’s Office in its current form, but unless radical changes are made to it, it will be yet another very bad omen.