‘Spitting, insulting, even punching’ – Venice hired armed guards to deal with overcrowding

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In a city of 50,000 residents, 80,000 visitors a day can only pose problems. Venice has reopened to tourists, both Americans and Europeans, and the city is struggling to cope.

After images of deserted canals and streets during the height of the pandemic, Venice’s bustle has returned.

Long lines and the issues they bring have become so unmanageable that armed guards are stationed at key vaporetto (waterbus) stops, reports CNN.

Since June, guards have been trying to keep the peace between locals and tourists.

Danilo Scattolin, legal representative for the Veneto region of the Sindacato Generale di Base (SGB) trade union, told CNN: “Users take out [their frustration] on the staff.

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“Some workers have been physically attacked. There is spitting, insulting, even punching.”

A local told CNN: “A guard is probably a good idea when there are too many people getting angry at too few spaces on the boats.”

The number of passengers on public transport is currently capped at 80 percent in Italy.

This has led locals not being allowed to board because the waterbuses have reached maximum capacity.

Long lines have become a daily occurrence for locals and tourists alike.

“The idea that in 2021 you need armed guards is truly something. It’s not a nice image of the city, either – that we need armed guards to protect our staff,” he said.

But he added that for the union, positioning guards only at busy stations during peak hours doesn’t solve the issue.

“If there’s no other remedy, they should be at every stop — what doesn’t happen on the pontoon where the guards are can happen on the next.”

The problem is not confined to waterbuses.

Danilo continued: “A few days ago, a bus was on the bridge [to Venice from the mainland] in a queue and a passenger lost it, because he thought the driver should have chosen the other lane. He was swearing at him until they arrived at Piazzale Roma.”

And while the guards may not be good image for the city, they are, unfortunately, a necessity.

Danilo said: “If there’s no other remedy, they should be at every stop — what doesn’t happen on the pontoon where the guards are can happen on the next.”

A Murano local told CNN: “It’s definitely not a Covid problem. It’s been like this for a long time.

“Sometimes it’s like a stampede – the equivalent of the rush hour [London] Tube. Several boats can go by and you won’t get a space.

“One time they closed the metal barrier on the boat, and people were literally jumping over it.”

With social distancing impossible to enforce, pictures of waterbus passengers packed in like sardines have become commonplace.

While tourism is a necessity for a city like Venice, the mass tourism issues that popular destination had before the pandemic have only been acerbated by Covid.

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