On Saturday at 14.30 Potere al Popolo Irlanda will meet at the Ha’ Penny Bridge to honour the memory of Soumaila Sacko, a Malian worker and trade unionist who has been killed in Southern Italy last week. Enough with exploitation, enough with racism! You can bring banners and placards.
“Do not accept events that happen every day as natural” B.Brecht – The exception and the rule.
Only two days into the Salvini government, and in the same day that the new Home Secretary stated that “the party was over for illegal migrants” a man was shot and killed in Calabria because of the colour of his skin. Two others were also wounded. Soumaila Sacko, 29 years old, was originally from Mali and had leave to remain in Italy. He was a labourer and trade unionist, involved in the struggle of the agricultural labourers for dignified living and working conditions. He was shot by unknown persons while searching in an abandoned and ownerless factory for material to build a new shack that could serve as a home for a friend. The shots were aimed to kill. And the motivation was the colour of Sacko’s skin. While the killer remains at large, and more details of the event are yet to emerge, what is clear is that the killing is a direct consequence of the climate of fear and racial hatred of which the principal author is Matteo Salvini, now Home Secretary of Italy.
In killing Soumaila they have killed one of us. He was a worker who fought against intolerable conditions, he was part of the struggle. And yet the immediate response from the media was to paint him as a thief, to say that the killer acted in “legitimate defence”, flying in the face of factual honesty. Soumaila was looking for material to put a roof over the head of a friend, in a factory that had been decommissioned many years ago and confiscated from its owners after it was found they had been illegally dumping toxic waste. The shots were fired in cold blood. Not by someone who felt threatened by the presence of Soumaila and his friends – they shot from over 60 metres away – but by someone who wanted to kill. Soumaila had his back to the killer and was shot directly in the head.
Soumaila and his co-workers are forced to build their own houses because they live with over 4,000 others in the tent-ghetto of San Ferdinando. The ghetto exists because the agricultural workers that come to work on the fields of Gioia Tauro are not provided with housing and do not earn enough to rent. They are the back-bone of the economy of Southern Italy and yet they earn as little as 1.50 euros an hour. While the agriculture industry continues to make money, they are barely able to survive. And aside from the daily struggle to find food and shelter, they often face serious danger, as a result of the precarity of their living and working conditions; of the lack of legal protections afforded to them as workers or as migrants. Only last year the life of Becky Moses was lost in a fire that ripped through the ghetto. There have also been more than a few cases of death from exhaustion. This is what for Salvini counts as a “party”.
Today agricultural workers across Southern Italy will lay down their tools. Today in Italy no-one can turn their heads from the suffering and violence brought about by Salvini’s politics of hate. If we do not take action we will become complicit. We will support the strike and we stand by Soumaila’s brothers and sisters in their rage and sorrow. We will continue to fight until we know that this will never happen again.