Relatives of victims, some wearing white gloves and holding pictures of their loved ones, led the demonstration as the names of some 900 people killed by the mafia were read out through loudspeakers.
One banner said: “You didn’t kill them. They are walking with us.” Another read: “Don’t turn the other way.”
Writer Roberto Saviano, a symbol of the fight against the mafia since his best-selling book Gomorra exposed how the mob dominates life around Naples, was also at the rally. The 29-year old has received death threats and lives under police escort. Organisers said some 150,000 people from across Italy and 30 other countries attended the demonstration. Police put the number at more than 100,000.
“Today is a day of celebration because we remember our dead with all these young people gathered here. They are the future of Italy,” said Vincenzo D’Agostino, the father of a policeman who was killed by the mafia with his wife and son.
Some families said they were still waiting for the killers of their relatives to be identified.
“We are still battling to know what happened. We are asking the state for the truth,” said Anna Adavastro, whose 18-year-old son Daniele vanished in Reggio Calabria in 2005. His body was later found, charred.
The march was organised by Libera (Free), an association of civil society groups involved in many anti-mafia activities, including acquiring farms and buildings confiscated from the mafia and using them for social good, such as school and drug rehabilitation centres.
Tight grip on economy
“A day like today is meaningful only if we keep fighting the other 364 days of the year,” said Father Luigi Ciotti, a priest and Libera’s president. Italian police have inflicted major blows on the Sicilian mafia in recent years, arresting several high-profile mafiosi, such as the “boss of bosses” Bernardo Provenzano and his heir apparent Salvatore Lo Piccolo in 2007