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Climate activists blacken Trevi Fountain over Italy floods

May 21, 2023

Activists poured charcoal into the waters of Rome's most famous fountain, calling for action against climate change. Rome's mayor condemned the "absurd attacks."

A crow of photographers takes pictures of activists in the Trevi Fountain
Activists were protesting over the recent deadly flooding in ItalyImage: Giulia Marrazzo/ZUMAPRESS/picture alliance

Climate activists in Italy blackened on Sunday Rome's famed Trevi Fountain (also known as Fontana Di Trevi) with charcoal, calling for an immediate halt to public subsidies to fossil fuels. They said the climate crisis is the reason for the latest flash floods in the country.

The floods in the region of Emilia-Romagna in the northeast of Italy have thus far killed 14 people, devastating much of the hit area.

Italy's Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) climate group said they poured charcoal diluted with water into the fountain. 

Italian police intervened soon afterwards, taking the activists away.

The 18th-century fountain in Rome attracts millions of tourists annually. 

A climate activist holds a banner inside Trevi Fountain, surrounded by vegetable charcoal that was poured in the water, during a demonstration against fossil fuels, in Rome, Italy May 21, 2023 in this image obtained from social media.
The Ultima Generazione demanded the end of funding fossil fuelsImage: Allesandro Penso/MAPS via REUTERS

What is behind the fountain attack?

The Ultima Generazione group posted photos of the blackened waters of the fountain on Twitter, showing protesters inside the water holding banners against fossil fuels. It said that one of every four houses in Italy was vulnerable to floods, asking: "How much longer do we have to wait for those in government to take concrete action?"

Climate activists have recently been orchestrating several peaceful yet disruptive protests across Europe. Protests usually target cultural sites and museum artworks, attempting to raise climate awareness.

What was the response for the authorities?

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni stopped at the flood-hit areas on Sunday after returning early from the G7 summit in Japan. Meloni toured the flooded towns, where rains and landslides displaced thousands. She described the flooding as a "tragedy."

The rain had stopped in most places by Sunday, but a red weather alert was extended to Monday.

Rome's mayor Roberto Gualtieri condemned the group's latest protest on Sunday. He said in a tweet that 300,000 liters of water would be wasted to clean the fountain.

"Enough of these absurd attacks on our artistic heritage," he wrote.

How far should civil disobedience go?

rmt/dj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)