Italian climate activists dyed Rome's Trevi Fountain black on Sunday, May 21. (all images courtesy Ultima Generazione)

European climate activists have struck again. Eight members of the Italy-based advocacy group Ultima Generazione dyed Rome’s 18th-century Trevi Fountain black on Sunday, May 21 in protest of the country’s fossil fuel subsidies. The group linked these payouts to the devastating floods that have swept the country’s Emilia Romagna region over the last week, killing at least 13 people, displacing some 23,000, and destroying thousands of farms.

“The only way to prevent this from happening is to stop emissions related to fossil fuels,” a 19-year-old member of Ultima Generazione named Mattia said in a statement shared with Hyperallergic. “We have decided to rebel against those who are condemning us to death.”

The action began at 11:30am on Sunday and police were almost immediately on the scene: By 11:45, authorities had evacuated all of the activists. Videos circulated online show policemen wading into the black water to physically remove the protesters from the fountain. Ultima Generazione said its members had poured “vegetable charcoal” into the fountain and did not damage the iconic site.

In early April, Ultima Generazione dyed Rome’s Barcaccia Fountain black and hung a banner on the Calamo Fountain in Ancona that read “We Don’t Pay for Fossil[s].” Last summer, members of the group glued themselves to Sandro Botticelli’s “Primavera” (c. 1480) at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and attached themselves to the base of the Ancient Roman statue “Laocoön and His Sons” at the Vatican.

High-profile climate actions in cultural spaces appear to have slowed down from last year, when incidents such as throwing tomato soup on Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” (1888) garnered international media attention. Rome’s mayor criticized Sunday’s action, and the Italian government seems determined to curb these protests. Last month, conservative lawmakers pushed a bill to impose fines ranging from €10,000 (~$11,000) to €60,000 (~$66,000) for damage to art, buildings, and monuments.

Meanwhile, climate activists this morning stormed the oil and gas company Shell’s annual shareholder meeting in London. The company made a record £32.2 billion (∼$39.9 billion) in profits last year, the highest since it was founded in 1912. Shell says it aims to have net-zero emissions by 2050, but climate groups want the company to curb fossil fuels by 2030.

Activists poured vegetable charcoal into the fountain.
Protestors held signs stating they would not pay for fossil fuels. (photo Alessandro Penso/Maps)

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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