An Ancient Racket: Police Battle Fake Gladiators In Modern Rome
A handful of Roman families are accused of intimidating both tourists and other would-be faux ancient gladiators treading on their cobblestones. Police use some ancient tricks to trap them, but they always come back for more.
ROME - Thesedays, in the center of Rome, tourists might just see a real gladiator fight. The modern-day Roman tough guys – long a photo-op attraction for visitors in the eternal city -- have been busy trying to escape from a local police crackdown.
Last week, police arrested 20 people accused of threatening visitors, as well as other insurgent wannabe-gladiators trying to invade the tourist-packed turf. For months, tourism agencies had denounced members of seven Italian families – many of them with a long list of criminal records – for trying to monopolize the gladiator business.
Dressed as gladiators in front of Rome's most famous monuments, the current gladiators pose for photographs alongside tourists in return for tips. But, according to the charges, the members of these seven families stalked tourists, and threatened and attacked other people who tried to share the lucrative business. They were even accused of burning the cars and mopeds of possible competitors.
The police needed to catch the gladiators in the act to be able to prosecute them. On Wednesday, a group of policemen dressed as street cleaners, along with two other officers dressed as gladiators, showed up in Piazza Venezia, a famous tourist spot. Soon, the officers posing as gladiators were approached and threatened. "This is my area, you cannot stay here. You are stealing my jobs," yelled the gladiators. The undercover policemen immediately surrounded and arrested them.
The police may have won this battle, but defeating the gladiators for good would be a heroic feat indeed. For more than a decade, Rome's administrations have never been able to approve serious measures against the photogenic racket. Every morning, they divvy up the area among families and start to stalk tourists. The going price they demand for posing for a fake snapshot: 20 euros. A modern treasure indeed.
Read the full original article by Flavia Amabile
Photo - kevingessner