Goodness, gracious, great balls of protest in Rome

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ROME (Reuters Life!) - Half a million multi-colored plastic balls bounced down Rome’s famed Spanish Steps on Wednesday morning in the latest stunt by a man who has become famous for his self-styled protests at the city’s landmarks.

The balls were thrown down the steps and into a 17th-century fountain by Graziano Cecchini, a 55-year old artist and right-wing activist who last year dumped a can of dye in the nearby Trevi fountain, turning it into a blood red pool.

“Italians’ balls are broken,” was written on leaflets distributed at the scene.

Cecchini, who was later detained by police along with three other protesters, said his was “an artistic operation which shows, through art, the problems we have here in Italy”.

“The colors of the balls weren’t chosen by accident. In fact, the majority are red - I wanted people to remember the Trevi fountain”.

Wide-eyed tourists and shopkeepers watched in disbelief as the balls were thrown from the balcony of the Holy Trinity Church, at the top of the Spanish steps.

Shopkeeper Lucia Russo sighed at the garbage trucks which quickly started to line up at the scene to collect the balls.

“Yes, it’s a statement, yes, it looks nice, but let’s spare a thought for the cleaners,” she said.

Others took a more light-hearted approach. “Even when they protest, Italians can’t help but create something beautiful”, laughed John Hyde, a tourist from Washington. “I don’t see any meaning in it, but it’s a sight to behold”.

Reporting by Liz Rusbridger, editing by Paul Casciato