Italian Politicians Push for Fines on Activists Who Damage Cultural Sites During Climate Protests

The Italian culture ministry is advocating for a law that would impose a large fine on individuals found to have vandalized the country’s monuments or cultural sites to cover repair costs. The move follows protests staged by climate activists in Italian squares.

During a cabinet meeting held on Tuesday, Italian lawmakers approved the culture ministry’s proposed legislation. The fine for potential violators of Italy’s cultural sites is proposed at a range between 10,000 and 60,000 euros ($11,000–$65,000). The proposal is expected to be approved by the right-leaning Italian parliament.

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ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 07: Vittorio Sgarbi, art critic and undersecretary of the Government for Culture, participates in Più Libri più Liberi, the fair of small and medium-sized publishing. on December 7, 2022 in Rome, Italy. This year's public-facing Italian book fair featuring small  and medium sized publishing companies, called Pi libri pi liberi, is scheduled to open on December 7 and run to December 11, again at Rome's La Nuvola, "The Cloud." (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Italian culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano cited the protests at the Italian Senate building in January as an example of recent vandalism. The climate group Last Generation, whose members have periodically targeted artworks in museums as well, led those protests. The cost to clean the façade of the 15th-century building in Rome, known as the Palazzo Madama, after one of that group’s actions was 40,000 euros ($44,000), according to Sangiuliano.

Members of Last Generation spray-painted the building orange in protest of the government’s inaction on climate-related policy. “Behind the act [is] the desperation stemming from the continual issuing of ever more alarming statistics and data on the eco-climate collapse,” the group said in a statement.

Earlier this month, activists protesting fossil fuels dyed the water of a 17th-century fountain black before being deterred by police. The site of the fountain used for the protest is known as the La Barcaccia, and has been attributed to Italian sculptor Pietro Bernini.

Protests such as these have been done to raise awareness for government inaction on climate change, activists have said.

“The attacks on monuments and artistic sites produce economic damage to all,” Sangiuliano said in a statement on Tuesday. “Whoever carries out these acts must assume also the financial responsibility.”

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