once the keys are back, the dream of legality fades

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On January 18, the keys were returned to the municipality: “Café 21 March” closed its doors for good. The dream of legality in the property seized from organized crime is fading.

Café 21 Marzo does not reopen. The final handover came at the end of January, according to the updated list of assets seized from organized crime recently published on the body’s website. “NO”, is the object stated in “Assigned Property” with reference to the building in via Gonzaga, confiscated from the contractor Antonio Sampleand returned to the community in July 2015 when the association gathered under the name “P’o ben r’o Paes”, which brought in the activists from Libera, “Mariarosa”, “Back to Life”, Legambiente, the prison in Eboli and the social cooperative Pozzuoli “Lazzarelle”, raised the doors of the bar Caffè 21 Marzo for the first time, in the presence of the founder of Libera, Don Luigi Ciotti, who defined it «The bar of hope“.


And for three years it has been. It was a hope for the ex-prisoners who had found a job and a hope to start over. It was a hope for the guys who ran the place, and for the people in financial difficulties who had started collecting some money in there. It was like this for three years, until that one cursed in April 2018 when the bureaucracy knocked on the door via Gonzaga to sanction its closure: the three-year detention period had expired, sanctioned by the commissioner triad that in Battipaglia, needless to say, arrived after a dissolution by City Council due to Camorra infiltrations. At the Palazzo di Città, perhaps due to too many commitments, there was no way to prepare in time the new tender for the custody of the premises confiscated from the Camorra. The public announcement was actually published a month and a half later. The time of the assignment changed: from three to six years. And only one request came: the one from the cooperative “Freedom”, which consists of employees at Café 21 Marzo.

For four months, that is, silence. Not even the trace of the mission decides. With the municipal administration under the leadership of municipal manager Cecilia French who ended up in the crosshairs of activists: they accused her of lack of sensitivity to a sensitive issue such as that of confiscated assets. In the city, when the gaps were seen lowered for almost 6 months, rumors began to spread that the bar had gone bankrupt. Suddenly, however, came a glimmer of hope: 210 days later, the municipal offices decided to sign the preliminary ruling. For the last award, however, another year passed. In the meantime, the needy boys had searched and found other jobs, the now former employees gathered under the association “Freedom” had inevitably gone other ways. And between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, the last bite of the pandemic came from Covid-19: especially for the first year, none of the associates would have ever risked restarting the business, after a nearly two-year hiatus, completely swing pandemic emergency. Who knows now if there will be any better projects. Meanwhile, what is certain is the return of the keys: on January 18, the association “Freedom” officially ceded the management of the confiscated property. The municipality must find a new contractor. And a new project. With the hope that, at least for this time, inertia and bureaucracy will not dominate.

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