Corona Gossip: Rome Mayor Asks Citizens to Snitch on Quarantine Breakers

circa 1955: Two women gossiping. One women is whispering a secret as the other opens her mouth in shock. (Photo by Gaston Remy/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Gaston Remy/Hulton Archive/Getty

ROME — Rome mayor Virginia Raggi has urged citizens to become government informants by reporting on their neighbors who violate any of the coronavirus lockdown rules.

Raggi has created an internet hotline to facilitate reporting on disobedient citizens who fail to comply in any way with the nationwide lockdown, a move that some have denounced as a “witch hunt” redolent of Italy’s dark days of fascism.

“Are there gatherings of people you think conflict with the rules of the health emergency?” reads an announcement on the Rome City Hall Facebook page. “You can report them directly to the competent Supervisory Authority, through the SUS (Single Reporting System) active on the institutional portal of Roma Capitale.”

Among the hundreds of comments to the post, many complain that the measure invites neighbors to spy on one another rather than uniting in solidarity in the midst of a nationwide ordeal that already weighs heavily on everyone.

“Incentivizing and legitimizing the climate of a police state… a stupid move,” writes one. “I hope no one forgets this ‘laudable’ gesture.”

“Of all the things that could be activated online FOR citizens, starting with a site that contains all the information necessary to cope with the health emergency or maybe thinking about ways to be able to show the sunlight to children and not just to dogs, you implement an online tattling system to denounce gatherings. This further classifies you and those who support you as useless and spiteful idiots,” writes another.

Others, however, seemed truly delighted to be deputized to report on the perceived infractions of others, listing off common ways and places in which the quarantine can easily be broken.

A local politician of the Partito Democratico (PD), Sabrina Alfonsi, said that “we don’t like the practice of informing. The job of chasing down violators is done just fine by our security forces, including our local police.”

“Instead of playing sheriff,” Alfonsi said, “it would be more useful if the Mayor provided all the municipal employees who work in essential services the tools to work in safety, sanitized as many roads and bins as possible, and provided the greatest number of beds to the homeless who still live on the streets.”

Ms. Raggi, a member of the Five Star Movement, has defended the reporting system, saying that it channels the “thousands of reports” that have arrived in recent days, such as reporting those who “take a walk in the park,” which has now been forbidden.

Among the casualties of the quarantine, Italian police “have been slapping both priests and worshippers gathering in churches with citations for violating the terms of a nationwide lockdown,” reported Elise Allen in an article Sunday for Crux, an online Catholic news agency.

In recent days, police interrupted a Eucharistic adoration service attended by some 10-20 people, spread out in the church to observe distancing protocols, and issued formal citations to everyone present, including the parish priest Father Carmine Petrilli.

Father Petrilli told Crux that churches are allowed to be open, “but they say people can’t go because it’s not a ‘primary need.’ This is what they say.”

“But the constitution guarantees freedom of worship in every situation,” he said.


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