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Florence mayor physically intervenes to stop climate activists from defacing ancient building


A mayor has been likened to Superman after springing into action to stop climate activists who were spraying paint on an ancient city building.


Florence mayor Dario Nardella intervened to stop activists defacing the facade of Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s town hall building, with bright orange paint.

Footage captured shows Mr. Nardella grabbing the arms of a male activist pointing a red fire extinguisher at the building that had been sprayed with paint.

He can be seen shoving the man away from the vandalized wall as he attempts to put the extinguisher on the ground.

A police officer moves in to restrain the activist’s hands, the mayor can be seen yelling furiously at him.

Florence mayor Dario Nardella
Florence mayor Dario Nardella physically intervened to stop climate activists from vandalizing an ancient building.

“What the f–k are you doing, what the f–k are you doing?” he shouts in Italian at the man, according to The Sun translators.

Earlier footage shows Mr Nardella in the historic Piazza della Signoria, considered the political heart of Florence and tourist hub.

The mayor is addressing a camera while, in the background, orange paint can be seen being applied to the Palazzo Vecchio.

He then turns and runs to intervene.

News agency ANSA reports the two vandals, aged 23 and 32, were detained by police.

It is understood they were linked to the Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) group, which has been involved in a number of actions across Italy aimed at raising awareness of the climate crisis.

Florence mayor Dario Nardella
“What the f–k are you doing” the mayor shouted.

The Last Generation group is known for defacing artwork and blocking traffic to make political statements about the climate crisis.

This latest attack follows a March 9 spray painting of the statue of Vittorio Emanuele II in front of Duomo cathedral in Milan.

They have also made headlines for separate incidents last year, including throwing flour on Andy Warhol’s painted car artwork in Milan and pea soup onto a Vincent van Gogh masterpiece in Rome

The group sparked outrage by gluing themselves to the protective glass in front of Botticelli’s Primavera at the Uffizi, which is located near their latest protest site.

After stopping the activists, Mr Nardella joined the efforts to clean the building, sharing photos of a group power washing and scrubbing the paint from the stone building.

Florence Mayor Dario Nardella
Following the incident the mayor aided in cleaning up the building. 

Florence mayor
More than 1,000 gallons of water were used to clean the building.

“The attack on art, culture and beauty, which are helpless in the face of violence and which are created for the good of humanity can never justify the battle for a cause, even the most acceptable,” he wrote with the pictures.

He later added that more than 1000 gallons of water were used to clean the “environmental blitz”.

The mayor’s actions went viral and were widely praised, with memes comparing him to the city’s own Superman, or a parent reacting to seeing their “child in danger”.

“Nardella is actually Clark Kent,” one user wrote.

“BatNardella!!!!” another wrote.

The next day, Mr Nardella released a longer statement saying that while he was “appalled and angry” by the vandalism he “shouldn’t have addressed (the activists) that way”.

Florence mayor Dario Nardella
Twitter users compared the mayor to Superman.

I acted on instinct. As mayor I love Florence not only with my head but with my heart and this time the heart prevailed, the impulse reaction prevailed,” he wrote.

“The instinct of a father or mother of a family who thought only of defending everyone’s home, Palazzo Vecchio.”

Mr Nardella said his actions were done to “block the vandalism and limit the damage as much as possible”, adding he saw it as “a scar on our history, on our roots”.

“For this reason, even the most shared battle, such as the one on the climate emergency, cannot be waged by attacking everyone’s heritage,” he wrote.

Last Generation climate activists glue themselves to "The Sower" by Vincent Van Gogh
Last Generation climate activists have provoked ire in other high profile stunts targeting works of art including throwing soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Sower.”
ANSA/AFP via Getty Images

“Caring for the planet and caring for art are two cornerstones of our existence.”

He acknowledged the Last Generation activists’ frustrations, saying they were “legitimate” but that action for “real change” was best left in the hands of city administrators and authorities.

“Yesterday we blocked the protest but we didn’t block the desire to protect the planet that hosts us,” Mr Nardella said.

“I am convinced that we don’t need glaring, individual, divisive actions, but widely shared battles and drastic government policies that can be reflected in the cities we love and live in every day.”

He called for the city of Florence to “help each other” to act on the climate crisis.

“It’s time to give substance to the defence of the environment. We try every day but we know that without everyone’s help, it will be impossible. Let’s help each other.”

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