Tue, Mar 23, 2010 - Page 6 News List

City’s ‘pushcart revolt’ to shame Italian government

AFP , L’AQUILA, ITALY

Residents of L’Aquila, Italy, remove uncollected rubble from the earthquake-hit streets of the town on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Survivors of a powerful quake that devastated many historic buildings here almost a year ago were back behind their pushcarts on Sunday to remove tonnes of rubble in a silent revolt against the slow pace of rebuilding.

“We need to get our city back because the government and the civil protection agency still have not cleared the center,” said a bespectacled young man, who would only give his first name Luigi.

Life in the old town of L’Aquila, with its rich Renaissance and Baroque buildings and churches, was practically wiped out on the night of April 6 last year when the quake killed 299 people.

Shops have remained closed and business is scarce, with up to 3 million cubic meters of rubble still littering narrow streets, the civil protection agency said.

Authorities have set a goal of removing 1 million tonnes this year.

Scaffolding and steel supports still shore up treasured architecture in the center of the medieval walled city, which experts predict will remain a “red zone” for the next 10 years.

However, on Sunday morning, 100 people were back on the streets like every weekend for the past couple of months.

“Even if we know that we cannot remove the rubble by ourselves, we want to show that people do not only expect others to do the job,” Luigi said.

University professor Guisi Pitari, one of the initiators of the movement, agreed: “People must be part of the reconstruction process, not only by rebuilding houses, but by rebuilding society and the economy.”

The people’s so-called pushcart revolt also opposes the government’s bulldozing policy to remove the debris by separating neatly cleaned bricks that can be reused in the reconstruction from wooden boards, plastic tubes and twisted metal.

“The government is trying to use our movement for its own purposes,” 26-year-old Mattia said bitterly. “It’s no coincidence that they sent the army to remove the rubble 10 days before the [regional] ­election” on Sunday and Monday.

Equipped with pushcarts, buckets or spades, the seven to 77-year-old volunteers appeared unfazed by the dust that hangs over the historic center.

“We want to get our city back and the debris is part of its history,” said Nino, wearing a yellow hardhat.

Others sported signs around their necks that read: “We want L’Aquila back,” “Reopen L’Aquila without conditions” or “L’Aquila belongs to us.”

With Sunday’s job done, the group split up, each carrying his or her tools back to what has become home since the quake — a hotel, a temporary shelter or a room with friends.

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