“Slaughtered with brass knuckles because I defended my daughter”

Reggio Emilia, 29 May 2024 – Do an experiment, if you have time. Take viale IV Novembre, then arrive in piazzale Marconi, finally turn into via Eritrea and continue along via Ceva: you will see, in no particular order, drug buying and selling at the light of the Sun, waste left everywhere, courtyards in decay and then you will try not to concentrate on the urine clearly visible on the walls and in the external atriums of the buildings and not to pay attention to those who walk around you suspiciously with their hoods covering their faces. But, above all, you will see residents and workers terrified: on them the signs of recent beatings, in their eyes the fear of having to live in that area, the now sadly known historic station, which has become hostage to pushers and drifters. As one of the pensioners of the neighborhood, fresh from an attack, a few days ago, says in front of the door of his house, in via Eritrea 6: here, at every hour of the day, but especially in the afternoon, evening and night, they are stationed in via ‘permanent’ gangs of drug dealers.

“I had to pass to enter the house – says the 79-year-old pensioner who worked as a craftsman all his life – so I just asked to move, to get out of there. One of them must have been six feet tall, he grabbed my sleeve and threw me to the ground”.

He shows signs on his hand, the wounds are still visible. “We have lived here since 1991 – he and his wife continue –, of course once upon a time everything was different, this was a middle-class, wealthy neighbourhood. If we had known it would end like this, we would never have come to live in this area. And who would do it? Here they deal, beat each other, scream, throw bottles at each other, insult each other. It’s always like this. When my wife goes to the tobacconist after lunch, I watch from the window, we’re at this point. We are afraid to leave the house”. They call and recall the police.

“Our average? One phone call to the police per week. Most of the time it is for throwing bottles into the street, but also because they come to deal in our private courtyards.” An infinite bitterness. “Who wants to come and do the shopping around here? Nobody at all – the pensioners comment –. Today very few people pass through here.”

And it confirms it owner of the bar in via Eritrea, run by a Chinese couple: not only that, he vents, the work is a disaster, but “they also beat me”. The episode took place a few days ago: “As usual, they started making drug balls here in front of the bar, and then left them in vases on the pavement, in front of the business. It’s not all. One of my daughters who was passing was targeted for the umpteenth time, the they harassed, they approached her, they annoyed her. It was the last straw. I screamed to stop, saying that I would call the police like many other times. Mostly they usually threaten me, tell me ‘Be careful’. But this time one of them he beat me up with brass knuckles”.

He pulls up his shirt, revealing his chest and back, full of bruises, and his injured arm. “It still hurts a lot. And my friend didn’t fare any better, they injured his forehead, it was a mask of blood,” says the bartender.

“The situation has degenerated in the last two years, we no longer work, and it is also dangerous. And in fact, we are forced to close the bar at 6.30pm.” The nearby kebab business doesn’t sell alcohol, for example. “What do we ask? That I send these gangs away – the words of residents and workers –, that there are constant controls and fixed safeguards. It’s certainly not possible to move forward like this.” “We will never tire of asking for the permanent presence of the army – he adds Gianni Felici, of the IV November Committeewho just yesterday sent one letter-appeal to the chief prosecutor Calogero Gaetano Paci on safety in the station area -, which we do not see as the definitive solution, but it would allow us to lighten the load on the police. In the meantime, however, it wouldn’t be enough, even just to say, for the Municipality to prevent bicycles and scooters from invading the sidewalks.” And just as he says this, a boy speeds down the sidewalk on his bike and just barely misses him. “You don’t ride your bike on the sidewalk,” Felici shouts after him. And, in response, he calmly sends him to hell. Thus ends the beautiful morning in the station area.

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