Climate activist group Extinction Rebellion has claimed responsibility for scaling Venice’s famed Rialto Bridge and dumping a chemical dye into its historical Grand Canal – turning it fluorescent green under a protest banner that read: “While the government speaks, we hang by a thread.”
“We know that our future is in danger and that nothing is being done to protect it,” the group wrote in a Facebook post, accompanied by images, explaining that the protest was targeted against the COP28 UN climate summit in Dubai – “chaired by the CEO of an oil company and (taking) place under the siege of the 2,400 fossil fuel lobbyists invited to participate.”
Extinction Rebellion, widely known as XR, has a reputation for attention-grabbing tactics. Its activists have made international headlines for gluing themselves to a Picasso painting, smashing bank windows and spraying fake blood over buildings to call attention to climate issues.
Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro condemned the latest protest, tweeting that public services, including transportation, had been halted as a result.
“Due to the acrobatics of self-styled eco-activists, or rather eco-vandals, we had to interrupt the public transport service and navigation in the Grand Canal and also activate environmental controls for the waters and verification of the recently restored columns of the Rialto bridge,” Brugnaro wrote in a statement released by Venice city hall.
“Venice is a fragile city, to be loved and above all to be respected. Enough is enough,” he added.
“The joke is good as long as it doesn’t last long. We will go all the way and denounce them (XR activists) – hoping that this time there will be a effective punishment.”
Venice and other Italian cities have successfully pressed charges against climate activists in the past since many of their targets are protected sites which garner heavy fines and even prison time if defaced.
Last week, the climate action group Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) defaced the basilica of San Marco in Venice’s main San Marco square in a similar protest.
In May, climate change activists entered Rome’s famed Trevi Fountain and dumped diluted charcoal that turned its blue waters black. “Our country is dying. Let’s not pay for fossil campaigns,” a banner read.
Venice, with its historical sights and landmarks, is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations but it has suffered the impact of mass tourism exacerbated by the effects of climate change.
Earlier in May, canal waters turned green when flourescein, the same substance used by XR activists in their latest protest, was accidentally dropped into the water. The substance is commonly used in Venice by building compabies to find leaks in underwater construction.
This year, the city was hit by a drought so bad that it was impossible for gondolas, water taxis and ambulances to pass through some canals.