The environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion has targeted a controversial statue of an Italian journalist in Milan.
Last Saturday, Milan woke up to find one of the city’s most controversial statues covered in black and yellow hazard tape and a series of posters glued to a wall surrounding it.
The statue was not wrapped up by city workers but rather Extinction Rebellion, the now internationally famous environmental activist group.
The posters explain that the park where the statue is located, as well as the entire Po Vally, a large swath of land in northern Italy, has hazardous levels of pollutants in the air.
The target of this campaign was the statue of the late Italian journalist Indro Montanelli (1909 - 2001) who is considered one of the fathers of modern Italian journalism. His statue has come under criticism in recent years as more people learn about the troubling past of the northern Italian journalist. Most notably the fact that he ‘married’ a 12-year-old Eritrean girl that he brought back to Italy during the period of Italian colonialism in Eastern Africa.
Although it did not appear that the statue was chosen to criticize Montanelli himself, it was likely chosen as his statue has become synonymous with Italy’s troubled past and present.
Targeted in the past
This is not the first time that this statue, or others like it, have been defaced or tampered with.
While vandalizing ancient historical monuments is seen as a huge taboo, defacing or damaging more recent statues of controversial figures is not uncommon in Italy.
The same statue of Montanelli had red paint thrown on it and ‘racist rapist’ spray-painted on its base during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
Activists and community leaders tried to have the statue removed in 2020, but no further progress was made after the protests died off.
Other statues and memorials damaged
In southern Italy, statues depicting figures relating to the country’s contentious unification in 1861 often come under attack from vandals.
In 2021, the heads of several soldiers and Giuseppe Garibaldi were damaged or decapitated from a memorial cemetery in Caserta. The act was later condemned by the mayor who said that “our memory must be respected and guarded.”
Between 2010 and 2020, the statues of Garibaldi and one of Italy’s first kings, Umberto I, had red paint splattered on them several times in the city of Naples.
A similar repeated occurrence happened to a statue of Garibaldi in Marsala, Sicily where ‘pirate assassin’ was spray-painted on the base of the statue numerous times between 2014 and 2018.