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Trevi Fountain water turned black by climate activists protesting fossil fuels

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Rome's historic and iconic Trevi Fountain became the site of a protest Sunday when climate activists turned its water black in protest of the fossil fuel industry. 

Activist group Ultima Generazione said that eight people who were a part of the "Let's not pay for fossil" campaign poured "vegetable charcoal" in the water as demonstrators pushed for an "immediate stop" to fossil fuel subsidies. Video shows the protesters jumping into the fountain and releasing the black substance out of buckets before holding up anti-fossil fuel signs to the massive crowd that had gathered. 

Climate activists protest at Trevi Fountain, Rome
Climate activists pour vegetable charcoal in the Trevi Fountain water, during a demonstration against fossil fuels, in Rome, Italy May 21, 2023 in this image obtained from social media.  ALESSANDRO PENSO/MAPS

Ultima Generazione said in a press release following the protest that police "intervened immediately" and apprehended the activists within 15 minutes of the demonstration. The reason for the event, the group said, is because of the increasingly visible impacts of climate change, most recently the floods that devastated northern Italy's Emilia Romagna region. 

At least 14 people died because of the floods, the group said, and thousands had to evacuate their homes. Nationwide, about a quarter of all homes are at risk of flooding, with a total estimated damage of about 3 billion euros every year, the group said, citing a recent study from the Bank of Italy. 

One of the protesters, 19-year-old Mattia, said in the release they decided to participate because of that "horrible tragedy." 

"[It's] a warning of the dark future that awaits humanity, made up of drought alternating with increasingly frequent and violent floods," she said. "...The only way to prevent this from happening is to stop emissions related to fossil fuels. Our Government, on the other hand, continues undaunted to give the fossil fuel industry public funding for tens of billions of euros every year." 

Climate activists protest at Trevi Fountain, Rome
A detained climate activist is dragged away by police during a demonstration at Trevi Fountain against fossil fuels, in Rome, Italy May 21, 2023 in this image obtained from social media. Alessandro Penso/MAPS  ALESSANDRO PENSO/MAPS

The protest decision was also linked to the World Meteorological Organization's announcement last week that the planet is more likely than ever to surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming compared with pre-industrial times within the next five years. That threshold marks a milestone that scientists have been warning about for years. When that amount of heat happens regularly, the world will likely experience more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts and floods. 

Ultima Generazione said that "no damage" was committed to the fountain, nor has any damage been done to past sites of protest by the group. But what has been damaged, they said, is the "cultural heritage in Emilia-Romagna." 

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