Just Stop Oil Protestors Arrested After Desecrating Stonehenge

Bryndís Blackadder

Two people have been arrested after they sprayed orange powdered paint onto the ancient Stonehenge monument in England as part of a Just Stop Oil protest.

Wiltshire police have confirmed that two people have been apprehended “on suspicion of damaging the ancient monument”. The “sacred site” which comprises of a circle of large stones, which stand near Sailsbury in England and which is estimated to be around 5,000 years old and is the most recent target of the Just Stop Oil paint attacks.

The prehistoric monument which is maintained by English Heritage was defaced with pigmented “cornflour” by two activists who sprayed the brightly colored substance onto the standing stones with fire extinguishers and an unknown propellant.

A video of the attack was then posted to X by Just Stop Oil, which showed the protestors – who were wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the organization- sitting down on the grass to pose for a photograph after spraying the stones and repelling the attempts by members of the public and staff to cease the assault on the preserved structures.

The official X account of the English Heritage Stonehenge, custodians of the site, posted an update on the attack, revealing that the incident was “extremely upsetting” and that they had sent their curators to inspect the damage.

Replying to an unofficial Stonehenge X account, Just Stop Oil disputed that the “powder paint” would cause “damage” to the millennia-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, arguing that the orange pigmented flour “will soon wash away with the rain.”

However, X users “added context” to the Just Stop Oil post via a Community Note which highlighted the importance of the delicate lichen plants living on the rock surfaces. This lichen is said to serve an important role in preserving the archaeological monument and its tool-marked surfaces. The biological coating “protects the stones of Stonehenge” from “pollution in the environment.”

Ironically, Just Stop Oil may have exposed the vulnerable monument to the pollution that the organization claims to wish to protect the wider natural environment, and human society, from.

In a press statement released in tandem with the action, the organization demands that “that the incoming UK government commit to working with other governments to agree an equitable plan to end the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal by 2030.”

In the statement, the organization named the two activists as Rajan Naidu, 73, from Birmingham who stated he had “in no way damaged” the “wonder of the world,” and Niamh Lynch, 21, a student from Oxford who stated in a video that refusal to meet the organization’s demands would be a “warrant death, destruction and suffering on an absolutely immense and immeasurable scale.”

Lynch went on to state in her video that the Solstice event, which is to occur tomorrow, is to celebrate the “beauty of the natural world,” and by covering the lichen in paint she believes she is asking revellers to reflect on the protest action.

The two activists purposefully targeted the Stonehenge monument on the eve of the Summer Solstice event which is celebrated annually at the site as the sun aligns with elements of the stone circle during the astronomical event. 

An X account dedicated to tracking Stonehenge news angrily reposted Just Stop Oil’s online comments warning the vandals to “expect a prison sentence.”

The account also highlighted the protections the structure has under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act and the Stonehenge Regulations 1997, which English Heritage warns visitors may allow criminal prosecutions to be brought for damaging the stones.

It is reported that U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has condemned the desecration as “a disgraceful act of vandalism”, and stated on X that “Just Stop Oil are a disgrace.” 

The leader of the UK Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, also condemned the act, joining many others in calling for criminal prosecution of the activists by stating on X: “The damage done to Stonehenge is outrageous. Just Stop Oil are pathetic. Those responsible must face the full force of the law.”

In reply to the condemnation, Just Stop Oil retweeted accounts stating “compare the strength of [Starmer’s] response to people spraying cornflour paint on some stones to the way he’s equivocated and enabled a genocide being enacted before our eyes in Gaza…”

In response to the videos posted by Just Stop Oil of its members being lead away from Stonehenge by police, X users have both supported and condemned the targeting of the Pagan religious site, with some challenging them to try such a stunt on other places of worship such as mosques.

Similar sentiments were posted in the comments section of the Just Stop Oil Instagram pages, where many Pagans have condemned the act, with other users mocking the activists, with one stating “How did these hard working people get to Stonehenge to deface it? …ohhh in a car.”

The attack on Stonehenge follows a long series of actions where Just Stop Oil has defaced artworks, buildings, sports events and even sprayed those in attendance at a wedding with paint promote their political views.

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