The mafia has been internationally active in such lucrative areas of business as drug dealing for a long time now. Demanding protection money from a businessman seems almost archaic in comparison. And yet, the payment of the ‚pizzo‘ (protection money) is still common practice on Sicily today. However, a change in society´s acceptance of this phenomenon is in full swing.
At the beginning of the nineties two public prosecutors were shot dead: they were carrying out investigations against the mafia. Sicilian society went into a state of shock. No one wanted to speak about the mafia, and for that very reason, racketeering could continue and was normal and socially accepted‘.
Since 2004, Addiopizzo has encouraged Sicilian society to stand up against the influence of the mafia. They should stand strong for a cultural revolution against violence, fear and dishonesty, and thus contribute towards an honest and peaceful society joined in solidarity. The slogan of the movement, ‚A whole nation which pays protection money is a nation without dignity‘, has served as a wake-up call for Sicily since it was first introduced. It is an appeal to finally break the silence.
Since then Addiopizzo has provided an umbrella for companies who no longer want to be the victims of extortion but wish to conduct their business legally and with dignity. As members of Addiopizzo, the owners are obliged to report their extortionists. Their shops are easy to recognise on account of the campaign´s sign which reads 'Pago chi non paga' (I pay who does not pay). In this way, consumers have the opportunity to become members of this community of solidarity and can be critical of what they consume. This is a clear statement: everyone is affected, and the behaviour of each individual can contribute to a change in society.
To date, more than 1000 companies in Sicily have joined this campaign. And social acceptance regarding the payment of protection money has significantly decreased.
Education is the organisation‘s second most essential pillar. Volunteers visit about 45 schools per year in and around Palermo to sensitize children and young people towards the methods of the mafia. They communicate a model of non-violence and mutual respect as a counterpoint against the ‚values‘ of the mafia. Addiopizzo actually lobbies for the introduction of ‚Lawfulness‘ as a school subject.
Events carried out by Addiopizzo, for example in areas with a particularly high rate of (youth) unemployment, raise awareness of the connection between poverty, social discrimination and the influence of the mafia, which has its roots in just such problems.
Meanwhile, Addiopizzo has branches in other regions of the country where the mafia is active.
In Germany, restaurant owners in Berlin, inspired by the Italian model, have joined forces and have founded the organisation 'Mafia? No, thank you!'