“Personal liberty is inviolable. No one may be detained, inspected, or searched nor otherwise subjected to any restriction of personal liberty except by order of the Judiciary stating a reason and only in such cases and in such manner as provided by the law […].
Any act of physical and moral violence against a person subjected to restriction of personal liberty shall be punished”.
(Constitution of the Italian Republic, “Rights and Duties of Citizens”, Article 13)
I’ve always found it interesting. There is only one way to give life to a human being, but endless ways we weave to take it away. You can kill a human being by killing its body or its spirit, by killing its faith or its hope, by killing its trust or its love, its dignity or its most sacred reason for being. You can kill a human being with your hands or with your feet, with fire or with water, with weapons or with poisons, with words or with silence, with laws or the absence of laws.
You can kill a human being with violence or indifference, with ridicule or hate, with ignorance or cowardice, with lies or the utmost mercilessness. You can kill a human being while you’re wearing the uniform with which you were entrusted to protect him “with discipline and honour”, while he’s lying on the ground handcuffed, defenceless and innocent, crying for help, begging you to stop bludgeoning him to death. But you, simply, don’t.
A song to remember Michele Ferrulli, victim of police brutality
Mario Mele, better known in the Italian underground rap scene as Mario Dron2 aka HMI, learned about his uncle’s untimely death on his 18th birthday, while he was away working on a tourist resort entertaining children. Being a prolific singer and musician, who was a child himself when he started playing music and only 13 when he started writing rap music, the latter seemed the natural response to recount the unnatural event which befell him and his family on the 30th of June 2011.
The evening of that fateful day Mele’s uncle, Michele Ferrulli, was coming back home from a hard day’s work as a construction worker. Along the road – a street in Milan’s south-eastern outskirts – he stopped to chat and have a beer with two friends. Around 9.30 pm a neighbour called the police for noise disturbances: Ferrulli and his friends were allegedly in a car listening to music whose volume was too loud.
From this moment onward, the differing chronicles of the story allow one to garner but five certainties. The first certainty is that, after the neighbour’s solicitation, a patrol car arrives.
The second certainty is that after a second patrol car arrives, Ferrulli is dead.
The third certainty is that many outraged witnesses, including ones who filmed Ferrulli’s beating, his cries for help, and ultimately his death, held the police officers Lucchetti, Ercoli, Piva and Cannizzo responsible for it after a violent assault ensued, initiated by the police officers with a filmed slap in Ferrulli’s face.
The fourth certainty is that most of those witnesses, when the matter went to court, either changed or took back their statements, or suddenly didn’t know or remember anything anymore. Others altogether disappeared.
The fifth certainty is that, despite medical evidence, video material and the prosecution’s appeal for a 7 year and eight months sentence for manslaughter, the four police officers were acquitted of all charges six years later, on the 2nd of October 2017.
“The Fact Did Not Take Place”
According to Italian courts, Ferrulli died of a coincidental, unfortunate, unrelated and unaccountable cardiac arrest while the police check occurred. According to Italian courts, the fact for which the police officers were being prosecuted “did not take place”.
“Exactly, ‘the fact did not take place’ ”, Mele tells WiB. “So my uncle didn’t die. But if he isn’t dead, how come I haven’t seen him in 7 years?”. Soon after Ferrulli’s death, Mele started composing the song “30 June 2011 – In Memory of Michele Ferrulli”, which was released in 2013. The song recounts the harrowing moments which lead to Ferrulli’s death, and the ones which followed it. The woman depicted in the song’s video, linked above, is Ferrulli’s daughter Domenica, who along with the victim’s family has been restlessly seeking for justice.
“Exactly, ‘the fact did not take place’. So my uncle didn’t die. But if he isn’t dead, how come I haven’t seen him in 7 years?”
“At that time”, Mele recalls, “we were at the beginning of all the nightmare and we still had some hope in the Italian justice system. […] My uncle dying is still on YouTube, but according to the Italian Justice, he’s the only one to blame”.
A talk with the artist Mario Mele, or Mario Dron2 aka HMI
For Mele, music is a means to fight for justice, social and legal. “I’ve become somewhat of a pessimist in time”, he tells WiB, “though I never lose the will to fight for that which is just. Because, in the end, it’s the only thing left”.
Since 2011, Mele has regularly been composing rap music, and has so far released 4 albums. His next album, “Addavenì Barbone Mix-Tape”, is due to be released this year. According to the artist, the album will be “an invitation to reflection and revolt. It is a scream of anger against the state of things and an urging to change it. It is depression and a longing for liberation. It is a punch to political correctness”.
As patently proven in the song he wrote to honour his uncle’s life and memory, the essence of Mele’s music lies in the possibility, and the ability, to chronicle the raw state of his mind and of the things surrounding it. “I can’t make music just for the sake of doing it, as it’s fashionable nowadays”, he tells WiB. “I need to communicate the things I have to say. Otherwise, it’s meaningless to me”.
What Mele ultimately communicates in “30 June 2011 – In Memory of Michele Ferrulli” is the surreal and surreally recurrent paradox of happening to find yourself, in the midst of a struggle for legal and social justice, in conflict with the interests of a so-called rule-of-law State.
Which, according to Mele, is hard. “When you find yourself in front of a State shrugging its shoulders, it’s hard. It’s tough. […] You feel incredibly alone. You feel..small. It’s like being in front of your enemy in wartime, with a slingshot in your hand and a multitude of cannons in front of you ready to shoot”.
For a second or two, Mele pauses for reflection, then concludes: “At that point, you have two possibilities. You either run away, and die anyway..or you load the slingshot and throw. And you die anyway, sure. But at least you die with a little dignity”.
Police brutality in Italy
Police brutality in Italy has been under European scrutiny especially since the events which took place in the Genoa G8 summit in 2001, for which the Italian government was found guilty, by the European Court of Human Rights, of violating Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Said article states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. These are just three of the many people in Italy, aside Michele Ferrulli, named “no one”:
Riccardo Rasman, 34 years old, died 27 October 2005, after police officers knocked at the door of his apartment for disturbances reported by neighbours. Riccardo was later found dead in his apartment with multiple fractures, numerous wounds, ligature marks, and blood coming out of his ears, nose, and mouth. Three of the eight public officials who entered Riccardo’s apartment get sentenced for manslaughter, and convicted to 6 months in jail.
Stefano Cucchi, 31 years old, died 22 October 2009 after 5 days in police custody. Having been detained for minor drug-related offences with none of the following medical conditions present, he died 5 days later severely dehydrated, with 2 broken vertebrae, and ruptured internal organs. The legal battle is still ongoing, but, as of now, no definitive conviction has still been rendered.
Federico Aldrovandi, 18 years old, died 25 September 2005 after a violent assault with four police officers ensued, while he was walking home alone one night. The assault left him with facial and cranial fractures, 54 injuries, bruises and lacerations. The officers were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to jail for 3 years and six months, of which they served 6 months before being released. As The Guardian then reported, upon the police officers’ release, they received a 5-minute standing ovation from their colleagues of a major police union. They have currently gone back to work as police officers.
Things would be much more simple if these stories, like most stories, didn’t or couldn’t have two sides: the public officials, on one hand, and the victims and their families on the other, who everyday fight, in and outside of themselves, to give an appearance of meaning to these shamefully senseless stories. In themselves, neither side of the story has more legitimacy than the other.
But only one side fights to know what the story truly is. Only one side fights to hear it. Only one side fights to understand it. Only one side fights to tell it. Only one side fights to share it. Only one side fights to remember it. Only one side fights so that the story may never be heard again. Why?