[WATCH] Abusive beach encroachment in Comino continues, police attempt to stop activists

Moviment Graffitti and members of the public returned to Comino to protest the 'hijacking' of the Blue Lagoon

The public joined Moviment Graffitti to protest against the over-commercialisation of the Blue Lagoon
The public joined Moviment Graffitti to protest against the over-commercialisation of the Blue Lagoon

Moviment Graffitti accompanied by members of the public returned to Comino on Saturday in a public protest against the ‘hijacking’ of the Blue Lagoon.

Around 100 activists were met with a police presence of seven officers on the island, who engaged in a lengthy confrontation with the protestors. They were confronted by individuals who complained about the rally, with activists telling them they were exercising their right to protest.

Armed with placards, protestors chanted “il-baħar, ix-xatt, Kemmuna ta’ kulħadd” (the sea, the beach, Comino belongs to everyone) and “Qażżiżtuna, qażżiżtuna, tuna lura 'l Kemmuna” (We have had enough, give us back Comino). They expressed their anger at the authorities' inaction towards the over-commercialisation of the Blue Lagoon.

Activists removed the beach furniture that was being placed on the sandy beach by the operators, but police intervened in an attempt to bring order.

Andre Callus from Moviment Graffitti got into a heated argument with police officers, as they took the side of the operators, and demanded that the protest ceases.

Tensions rose as the operators continued to set up deckchairs and umbrellas on the quay, with the activists intervening and removing them.

Callus said that he was assured by police a day before that the beach would be free of beach furniture during the protest.

“Despite their promises, when we arrived there were already a few but they kept on adding more. These bullies have a lot of power,” Callus said.

He stated that the operators brought their own people to the bay in order to disrupt the protest.

The NGO invited the public to today’s protest, organising boat trips from Ċirkewwa and Mġarr (Gozo) to the Blue Lagoon. The heads-up for the event prompted the commercial operators to remove the deckchairs and umbrellas from the sandy beach, as it was free from any beach furniture on Saturday morning.

Last month, activists and members of Moviment Graffitti launched an early morning direct action on Comino, protesting the private concessions blocking access to the public coastline. Activists removed the laid-out deckchairs and folded them neatly against a retaining wall. 

Saturday's protest also follows two open letters to five ministers who are responsible for several aspects of the island's management, laying down demands to ensure the Blue Lagoon's protection and unbridled public access. It was made clear that the pressure on authorities will not subside as long as a few people with money and political influence snatch what rightfully belongs to the people while overexploiting a nature reserve for their private profits.

"We will not accept a situation where a few people with money and political influence snatch what rightfully belongs to the people. Neither will we accept that these companies continue with their destruction of a nature reserve for their private profits," the NGO said.

Moviment Graffitti reiterated their demands for immediate action to stop the damage being done to the Blue Lagoon and return the beach to the people.

They made four key demands: deckchairs and umbrellas can only be set up at the request of a person physically present on the spot (and should never occupy more than 30%); big boats which disembark hundreds of tourists at a time are prohibited from Comino; a limit of two small kiosks without music in the Blue Lagoon; a restriction on the type and amount of waste generated.

The protest was endorsed by Għawdix, ACT Malta, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Extinction Rebellion Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Grow 10 Trees 'Project (G10T), MaYA Foundation, Nature Trust Malta, Rota, The Archaeological Society Malta, The Ramblers' Association of Malta, and Żminijietna - Voice of the Left. The Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg was also present for the protest.