#18: THE SAN GENNARO MASSACRE

Violence

The organized crime system oppressing the city of Naples, Italy is known as the camorra. The Neapolitan bingo game in which each number codifies a secret meaning is known as tombola. This is the camorra’s tombola.

The number 18 means blood in tombola, and even more so outside of the game: the 18th of September 2008, was one of the bloodiest days in the memory of Campania, Italy.

That day, like every 18th of September, the city was waiting for a miracle to happen: it was the eve of San Gennaro's blood miracle, when a vial of solidified blood from the martyred patron saint of Naples would melt back into liquid in the city's main cathedral under the eyes of thousands of believers.

El Hadji Ababa was from Togo and had a dressmaker's shop in Italy. He was eating Ramadan dinner after sundown with his employee Jeemes Alex, also from Togo, and his friend Christopher Adams, a barber from Ghana. Living in the flat above the dressmaker's shop was Kwame Antwi Julius Francis, also born in Ghana, who, years before, had walked through the Niger desert to end up in Libya before crossing the sea to Italy on a smuggler boat. Francis went down to the street to meet his friend, a Ghanaian bricklayer like himself, Affun Yeboa Eric, who had come with a car to pick him up accompanied by another bricklayer from Togo, Samuel Kwako.

None were affiliated with the Neapolitan camorra nor with the Nigerian mafia, the only African ethnic group working with Neapolitan criminals to smuggle drugs and prostitutes. But a group of hit men arrived anyway, dressed in police uniforms and armed with automatics, Kalashnikovs and handguns, and fired more than 120 bullets in less than 30 seconds. The massacre of all six innocent immigrants is now known as the massacre of Castelvolturno, named for the town where the carnage of innocents took place. Others call it the San Gennaro Massacre.

The ruthless Casalesi clan had already sent a group of hit men to threaten the Castelvolturno community on the 18th of August 2008, wounding another 6 immigrants, for similar motives: to intimidate and control the area, especially the African population.

The September killers were arrested when brave Joseph Ayimbora, from Ghana, wounded in the leg and in the chest, pretended to be dead during the ambush and then identified the authors of the bloodshed during his recovery. When they were arrested, they were accused, above all, of terrorism and racial hate. A few months later, Giuseppe Setola, the Casalesi clan's super boss and instigator of the massacre, had handcuffs around his wrists.

The local African community protested publicly against the camorra, defending the innocence of their victims in a country where Italians barely ever protest for innocent casualties of organized crime. These peaceful protests eventually evolved in urban warfare when more immigrants, unrelated to the mournful event, perhaps frustrated by the inhumane conditions of their own lives and work, joined the street march and erupted in violence against police, using guns and Kalashnikov, throwing stones and making the streets uncontrollable for the security forces.

Although calm has since returned to the city, immigrants remain easy targets for smugglers, criminals and exploiters.

 

Further reading:
Three years later, a movie about the Saint Gennaro Massacre, called Las bas, received the Leone del future prize at the Venice Film Festival. It was directed by young film director Guido Lombardo and produced by Gaetano di Vaio, a former criminal who, after finishing a seven year sentence in Poggioreale Jail, had devoted himself to cinema.
 

Post by Michaela A.G. Iaccarino