Roman 'centurions' seize Colosseum in protest

Roman 'centurions' seize Colosseum in protest

Dozens of Roman centurion impersonators protested in front of the Colosseum on Thursday dressed in plumed helmets and clutching plastic swords in a protest against a ban on their work.

A clash between the “centurions” and police broke out after officers forced down a group of the men who had climbed onto an upper stand of the famous Roman amphitheatre, as bemused tourists cheered on the impersonators.

A spokesman for the protesters, David Sonnino, said they would stay until they had been given “a written assurance” that they would receive permits and the unusual protest continued inside the tourist-hub monument itself.

The re-enactors usually crowd the area outside the 2,000-year-old Colosseum, posing with tourists for pictures for a fee but are working illegally.

They have been officially banned from April 4 under a frequently flouted law that prevents any commercial activity in front of historical monuments.

Several “centurions” were arrested in an undercover sting by police last year after tourists complained about being harassed by the men and they were also accused of using violence to keep away competition.

One alleged ruse was to offer to take a photo with the tourist’s camera and then refusing to return it until money had been handed over. A centurion was arrested in 2007 for attacking a couple of tourists.