A step designed to make Venice more “livable” for residents, instead became a lightning rod of protest for inhabitants of the Italian city, which has a population of under 60,000 but receives up to 30 million tourists annually.
Luigi Brugnaro, the city’s conservative mayor, ordered the installation of temporary turnstiles ahead of the popular May holidays in some of the historic center’s busiest thoroughfares. As tourists would flood the city, the only people able to pass through them would be residents or frequent visitors in possession of a city pass, while most tourists were sent on slower, more meandering alternative routes.
But before they had a chance to begin operations on Saturday, a well-organized demonstration, numbering several dozen Venetians, descended on one of the checkpoints.
The protesters carried banners reading “This is not Veniceland” and “Brugnari has sold the city to tourists.”
They then began to attack and demolish the turnstiles themselves, while police passively attempted to maintain order.
“The problem is not to limit the entrance for tourists. The problem is to give more houses, more homes, more apartments to the people, the Venetians, to the people who want to live here,” Marco Baravalle, one of the organizers, said in a speech. “Venice is dying and this mayor is giving up on the struggle of the city. The mayor wants this city to become a city with no inhabitants, with no people.”
Later that day, the damaged turnstiles were repaired, though one of the protest leaders told the Independent that they plan to repeatedly attack the barriers if they are erected in the future.
“For me, the most important thing for Venice would be to treat it like a real city and defend it from the selling off of public heritage, and from her daily rape by cruise ships and mass tourism,” said Tommaso Cacciari, who made his name locally protesting the booming cruise ship routes through the city, which disgorge tens of thousands of day-trip tourists each week.
But Brugnaro appeared unmoved by the pleas of the protest groups, writing on Twitter that he would not react to “provocations” and he promised to continue “experimenting” with measures that would strike a balance between the needs of visitors and permanent residents.
“People who want to come to Venice are always important guests for us,” he wrote in a post.
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