Climate activists face trial for painting Italian senate building

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An Italian judge ruled on 3 January that three environmental activists who sprayed the Senate building in Rome with washable paint must stand trial. The action, carried out on 2 January, had sparked anger from Italy’s far-right government.

Laura, Davide, and Alessandro – who belong to the Last Generation group and go by their first names – are accused of criminal damage. They could spend up to three years behind bars.

Grabbing attention

They were among five climate activists who used fire extinguishers to spray the front of the upper house of the Italian parliament with washable orange paint. Police seized the fire extinguishers and detained all five activists, before releasing two.

Laura said in a statement that they were responding to the:

willingness of political and economic elites to deliberately choose to condemn much of the global population to drought, famine, war and death

The group wants Italy to invest more in renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions.

Last Generation said the arrests were:

Read on...

aimed at intimidating and criminalising those who are trying to bring attention to the real crime that this government is perpetrating.

The trial for the three arrested will begin on 12 May, their lawyer – Ilaria Salamandra – told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“The defence hopes the court will change the offence,” reducing it to soiling rather than damage, she said. Soiling would be a lesser charge that carries a punishment of between six months to one year.

Right-wing backlash

Stefano Feltri, editor of the left-wing Domani, wrote on Monday 2 January that climate activists in Italy were:

treated more harshly than hooligan leaders who collude with organised crime.

True to form, far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni called the spraying an “outrageous gesture”. Meanwhile, Senate speaker Ignazio La Russa, from Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, said it was “cowardly”.

Last Generation began carrying out peaceful but disruptive protests in Italy last year ahead of the general election, urging politicians from all parties to make climate change their priority.

Activists threw paint at Milan’s famed La Scala opera house last month and have targeted artworks in museums. These are forms of direct action designed not to damage the works, but rather to highlight the risk of environmental disaster.

A broader scope

The protests in Italy are part of a series of actions across Europe to focus attention on climate change.

Activists have targeted masterpieces such as ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Johannes Vermeer at The Hague’s Mauritshuis museum, Klimt’s ‘Death and Life’ in Vienna’s Leopold Museum, and Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ at London’s National Gallery, hurling soup or other food at the paintings behind glass.

Featured image via Unsplash, resized to 770×403 pixels

Additional reporting via AFP News

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