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Pizzo is the Sicilian word for protection money, which most businesses in Palermo still pay monthly to the mob.
Last night I interviewed two of the guys from the Addio Pizzo Committee. Addio Pizzo means Goodbye, Protection Money. So far 857 store owners have signed up to refuse to pay the racket. The non-profit was formed ten years ago by a group of young men and women who wanted to start a pub and had ENOUGH of the mafia. In the past, people who did not pay the pizzo had their windows smashed, or smeared with manure, or had small items stolen, or their stores firebombed, or the business owners, like Libero Grassi, might be killed on their way to work.
Stores which display the Addio Pizzo decal repel extortionists these days. They won't walk in your store and demand money, because you might turn them in and draw attention to Mafia activities and undercurrents. But what they do instead is is squeeze superglue into the locks and padlocks on your store. You might see a store closed one morning and wonder if the owner is sick or still in bed, when in reality she has gone to get a locksmith to try to get into her own establishment.
This morning, walking home from the Ritual of the Roses in honor of Saint Rita da Cascio, I spotted this poor woman trying to get into her grocery store on Via Maqueda. She was a south Asian immigrant, just trying to make a living, who will now fear the mob, and have to deal with them.
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