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A man climbed onto an outside ledge of Rome’s Colosseum on Friday and shouted in protest at a new decree restricting sightseeing tours, rickshaw rides and centurion impersonators as part of a public order crackdown in the city.
Italy’s capital is imposing extra security measures and sprucing up parks and piazzas as it gears up to host the Roman Catholic Holy Year, or “Jubilee”, that could draw millions of tourists and pilgrims. A policeman said the protester, a manager at a guided tour company, had reached the outer edge of the 2,000 year-old amphitheatre from inside, apparently through the main entrance.
The fact someone had evaded security at one of Italy’ most-visited sites and police were powerless to intervene caused concern about whether the city is ready for the Jubilee, or up to the task of protecting its citizens from the risk of attacks like the ones that killed 130 people in Paris two weeks ago.
“If he were a kamikaze with a gun or a bomb, he’d have blown up the Colosseum by now,” said retired soldier Marco Deviato, 54, in the square surrounding the monument. City authorities said they would install new metal detectors at the Colosseum after the attacks in France. Firefighters and police set up a large inflatable cushion below the small balcony, where the man shuffled around in the cold morning air, shouting: “I’ll go on hunger strike.”
The incident drew a small crowd of onlookers including others affected by the decree which bans people from making money from tourists by posing for photos dressed as Roman soldiers, offering rickshaw rides or promoting tours and selling museum tickets in public areas. “All these people have families and now their jobs have been taken away. Italy is already in crisis, now what do they do? They take away hundreds of jobs,” said Luca, 42, who has worked as a centurion impersonator for 15 years.
Holy Year is one of the 1.2 billion-member Catholic church’s most important events, and sees the faithful make pilgrimages to Rome and other religious sites. Catholics performing such pilgrimages or doing good works during the Holy Year can traditionally gain indulgences, or the remission of punishment for sins, under certain conditions.