US actor Richard Gere receives the 'Keys of the City' from the Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella(R) at Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy, 14 October 2019 | Photo: ANSA/CITY OF FLORENCE PRESS OFFICE
US actor Richard Gere receives the 'Keys of the City' from the Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella(R) at Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy, 14 October 2019 | Photo: ANSA/CITY OF FLORENCE PRESS OFFICE

US actor Richard Gere on Monday was honored by the Italian city of Florence for his humanitarian work in favor of migrants and human rights.

In a gesture to honor his humanitarian work, American actor Richard Gere was given the keys to the city of Florence from Mayor Dario Nardella on Monday. The actor was also given exclusive entry to the Uffizi gallery, where he was shown masterpieces by famous Italian painters and sculptors including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Piero della Francesca.


Later, Gere received the prize from the mayor during a ceremony in Palazzo Vecchio's Salone dei Cinquecento. 

However, his honor was criticized by opposition members in the city council. The councilors, members of the center-right and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), wore T-shirts saying 'Stop NGOs' and criticized the administration's choice to honor the actor. 

Gere visited NGO vessel Open Arms

Mayor Dario Nardella said the administration decided to honor the actor's humanitarian work, recalling that in August he travelled to Lampedusa to board Spanish migrant rescue vessel Open Arms. At the time of Gere's visit, the ship had been stranded for eight days in the Mediterranean with 121 migrants on board. Overall, the ship was at sea for 19 days before all migrants were allowed to disembark, in a standoff with then-interior minister and deputy premier Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant League party, who had closed Italy's ports to NGO run migrant rescue ships. 

Speaking at the ceremony, Nardella said that "the keys to the city are given first of all for the work of Richard Gere's foundation, for his dedication in favor of the weak, the poor and disadvantaged" and for the actor's work to promote fundamental rights. Gere says 'we are all here to help each other' Gere said he was "honored" to receive the keys and that he believes "we are all in this world to help one another."

Criticism on US policy

Speaking about his experience aboard the rescue ship in August, Gere said the volunteers he had met were "angels" and that helping people is "the only important thing that makes our lives meaningful." 

Gere also spoke about league leader Matteo Salvini, urging him to board NGO ships with him. "I would be happy to take him" to bring food to people, he said. Gere also attacked US President Donald Trump's policy on Syria, saying that as an American citizen he was "deeply embarrassed" by it. 

 

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