Oil protesters arrested after throwing tomato soup at Van Gogh portray

Activists from ‘Just Stop Oil’ tape their hands to the wall after throwing soup at van Gogh’s painting ‘Sunflowers’ at the National Gallery in London, Britain October 14, 2022.

Just Stop Oil | Reuters

LONDON, April 12 /PRNewswire/ — Two activists from the Just Stop Oil campaign group were arrested Friday after they threw tomato soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s famous ‘Sunflowers’ painting, which hangs in the National Gallery in London.

The protesters then taped themselves to the wall next to the painting.

“What is worth more, art or life? Is it worth more than food? Worth more than justice? Are you more concerned with protecting a painting or protecting our planet and our people? The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of the oil crisis, fuel is unaffordable for millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a can of soup,” said one activist, video footage of the event showed.

According to London’s Metropolitan Police, specialists removed the two women from the wall and they were taken into custody after being arrested for “criminal vandalism and aggravated trespassing”.

A Just Stop Oil activist is arrested at the National Portrait Gallery on October 14, 2022 in London, England, after Van Gogh’s sunflowers were sprinkled with soup.

Martin Pope | Getty Images

A spokesman for the National Gallery confirmed that the painting, which is estimated to be worth £72.5 million ($80.99 million), was not damaged.

“There is some minor damage to the frame, but the painting is undamaged,” they told CNBC. The painting was covered with glass.

Just Stop Oil has been protesting in the British capital for two weeks. In a press release, the group said its actions were “a response to government inaction on both the cost-of-living crisis and the climate crisis.”

The group also said they are demanding that the UK government end all new oil and gas projects in the country.

Earlier this month, Britain’s North Sea Transition Authority, which is responsible for maximizing the country’s economic gains from oil and gas reserves in the North Sea, began issuing new licenses to companies conducting underwater fossil fuel exploration.

The issuance of such licenses had previously been suspended in 2020 as the government said it would introduce a “climate impact assessment”. Following her election as prime minister in September, Conservative leader Liz Truss and her business and energy secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, announced that the process would resume.

Just Stop Oil protesters block St George’s Circus roundabout in south London on October 13, 2022 in London, England.

Guy Kleinman | Getty Images

The new government has also lifted its ban on fracking, introduced in 2019 over concerns it causes earthquakes.

The moves were linked to the energy crisis that has gripped Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

They have been widely criticized by environmental groups, including Greenpeace, as well as by opposition Labor Party politicians.

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