Brawl between animal activists and carriage drivers in front of Spanish Steps
A brawl broke out in front of Rome's famous Spanish Steps between animal rights activists and carriage drivers over the welfare of their horses as the Italian capital is gripped by a heatwave.
Spanish steps, scene of a brawl between animal rights activists and carriage drivers.
By Josephine McKenna in Rome
Three men were arrested after five people were injured in violent clashes on Saturday that occurred in front of hundreds of horrified tourists at the popular historic site.
A handful of activists from the European animal rights group PAE reportedly arrived at the popular historic site around 5.30pm manned with thermometers and video cameras and began yelling, "Shame!" at the drivers lined up there.
As tempers frayed the activists asked a nearby patrol of municipal police to stop the horse-drawn buggies from operating in the stifling heat.
There has been mounting opposition to the city's 40 horse-drawn carriages that ferry tourists between popular sites including the Colosseum and Pantheon after a horse collapsed during the latest heatwave two weeks ago and another was reported for carrying six passengers.
Rome City Council issued an ordinance on Tuesday making it illegal for the horse-drawn buggies to operate when the temperature exceeds 35 and the activists claimed the temperature was above that in the city centre when they arrived.
When the foot patrols failed to intervene, the activists and the drivers exchanged punches and insults and the Carabinieri police were called to stop the violence.
Last week Mayor Gianni Alemanno said the council would consider some
compensation for the carriage drivers if they were sidelined by the impact
of Italy's stifling heatwave which is expected to continue through August.
"We are allowing the carriages to exist and operate in Rome but only with precise regulations that we will continue to review for the well-being of the animals," Alemanno said on Thursday.
Rome: Drivers of horse-drawn carriages clash with animal rights activists
Horse-drawn carriages are a source of embarrassment to Rome – in 2008 a
horse had to be put down near the Colosseum – after it was spooked by a
President of a European animal rights group and two drivers of botticelle, horse-drawn carriages were taken to a police station - Sunday 5 August 2012
Tourists and shoppers in central Rome looked on in astonishment at the weekend as horse-drawn carriage drivers traded blows with animal rights activists in the busy Piazza di Spagna.
Three people were arrested – reportedly including the president of a European animal rights group – and five were taken to hospital. The other two arrested were drivers of botticelle, the horse-drawn carriages that have become an increasingly anachronistic sight on the streets of the Italian capital.
Sticks and bottles were said to have been in used in the fight, which began after animal welfare activists protested over a lack of thermometers in come carriages.
Under a recently approved by-law, botticelle are not allowed to take on passengers if the temperature is above 40C (104F).
Two of the carriage drivers were fined as a result. The fight was broken up by officers of the semi-militarised Carabinieri police, as holidaymakers gazed at the nearby Spanish Steps or looked for bargains in the square's fashionable shops.
The number of licensed carriage drivers has fallen to just 42, but the profession is a growing source of embarrassment to the city. Last month, one of the horses collapsed in the Piazza di Spagna. In December 2008, another had to be put down near the Colosseum after being panicked by a passing lorry, falling and breaking a leg.
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