Saturday, June 20, 2009

Venice Gondoliers face 173 years in jail For Naval Blockade

72 gondoliers who blocked Venice's Grand Canal in a series of protests between 2003 and 2005 are facing a total of 173 years in jail.

Prosecutors on Friday accused the gondoliers, who were demonstrating against a restriction in working hours, of mounting a ''naval blockade."

Defence lawyers said this charge was not applicable because the protests took place on an inland waterway.

They also noted that the gondoliers let water buses through.

Gondoliers blocked Venice's most famous canal and left gondolas outside the city mayor's office in protest at rules aimed at solving the problem of the violent waves produced by boats going too fast.

In 2002, then Venice mayor Paolo Costa was tasked with resolving the so-called 'moto ondoso' which swept fragile buildings and monuments. Costa issued an ordinance to keep delivery vessels and gondolas from being on the Grand Canal at the same time.

Gondoliers, famlous for the black outfits with red scarf standing on the end of the elegant boats stick in water argued the move was an unfair limitation of their trade.

Delivery firms, shops and businesses were also unhappy with the new rules and joined with the gondoliers in their protest.

Gondoliers also argued the orders would not work unless there were enough traffic police to make sure boats stuck to the rules.

The rules were later eased as city hall cracked down on the speeding boats.

For more on Venice and Italy visit WebVisionItaly's Venice travel channel.

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