“We are all blown away, you better leave.” It is a hoarse and threatening voice, the one that resounds beyond the railing. We are a Saint Lawrence, the Roman district where Desirée Mariottini was found lifeless two years ago. She died of an overdose, surrounded by the squalor and indifference of those who frequented the abandoned construction site in via dei Lucani, used as a crack house by a group of stragglers. A place of horror that you don’t expect to exist. Not there, a stone’s throw from the center. However, that story seems to have taught nothing.
There drug it continues to circulate and, in the lockdown months, the situation has deteriorated even more. Along the Aurelian walls, at the height of Porta Tiburtina, the comings and goings of heirs is continuous. You recognize them by the staggering gait and the wrinkled clothes. You see them disappear behind a railing and succeed after hours, even more upset. What happens beyond the fence can only be imagined, because the view is blocked by thermal blankets and cartons.
We must have the courage to approach to catch a glimpse of a group of foreigners intent on smoking crack at five in the afternoon. They are sitting in a circle, one of them looks at us with distrust and suggests that we go away. “We are abandoned people and we are all blown away, someone could jump over and come over, it’s not safe for you, it’s better if you leave,” he says.
A few minutes later another one appears. He does not look threatening, his name is Abbas and he is 22 years old. He is an irregular who came out a few months ago prison. He attacked a man with scissors: “It was self-defense, he was annoying my girlfriend.” He is the one who explains to us how the settlement was born, after making it clear: “I do not take drugs, I just drink some beer to get up”. “I settled here at the end of February, it was just me at the beginning, then other people started to arrive,” he says. And now? “Now we sleep here in ten, even if during the day many people come to get together.”
Getting drugs is easy. “Everyone sells it here,” he says. Abbas confesses to us that he can’t take any more of this life. “I am tired – he says – I would like to get out of here and resume my studies in sociology, but without documents how can I do it?”. Among the tenants of the tent city there is also an Italian, his name is Gianni and he will be fifty years old. It lists the circulating substances: cocaine, heroin, ketamine, crack. “I’ve been doing cocaine lately because it gives me the charge, even though I started withheroinwas the one that ruined my life in the eighties, “he explains.
He also has several precedents for shop and robbery but assures: “I never robbed old women”. The presence of this favela is not unknown to law enforcement. “The police always come to check on us, but when people arrive, they run away,” explains Gianni, before disappearing into the shantytown to continue doing things. It is a ritual that is repeated every day, under the light of the sun and the glances of the few passers-by who venture to walk the sidewalk.
“We should do something to stem this scourge, it is a large problem that can no longer be overlooked, not after what happened in via dei Lucani”, he says Luca Laurenti, spokesman for the blog Riprendiamoci Roma, which denounces degradation in the capital. The activist gravitates from the area every day and has no doubts: “During the lockdown these people had the opportunity to organize themselves undisturbed, we must intervene before what happened to poor Desirée is repeated”.
Tents and shacks also dot the walls along Pretoriano Avenue. Dozens of have camped there africani, probably because of its proximity to the Caritas canteen in via Marsala. “It is a squalor, and fortunately that we should not leave anyone behind – concludes Laurenti – I hope that the institutions will take steps to remedy this situation”.