Oil activists paint Stonehenge orange, causing some to get arrested

Two British climate change activists from the group Just Stop Oil on Wednesday were taken into custody after spray-painting the ancient site at Stonehenge, the prehistoric megalithic structure, the color orange to protest the country’s ongoing use of fossil fuels.

The local Wiltshire Police confirmed two arrests of Rajan Naidu, 73, and Niamh Lynch, 21, at the ancient Stonehenge site in southern England roughly 88 miles, southwest of the country’s capital London.

“At around noon, we responded to a report that orange paint had been sprayed on some of the stones by two suspects,” the Wiltshire police said in a statement. “Officers attended the scene and arrested two people on suspicion of damaging the ancient monument. Our inquiries are ongoing.”

The vandalism to the ancient site came as thousands are expected to descend on the area the next day Thursday for the summer solstice, the earliest in 228 years since 1796.

“It’s time for us to think about what our civilization will leave behind — what is our legacy?” Lynch, an Oxford University student, said. “Standing inert for generations works well for stones — not climate policy.”

Just Stop Oil said the orange paint was made of cornstarch, “which will wash away in the rain, but the urgent need for effective government action to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the climate and ecological crisis will not,” the group posted on X along with a video of Lynch and Naidu getting arrested.

Both Britain’s major political party leaders condemned the group’s actions as the country is barely two weeks out from a general election which the current conservative government is widely viewed as likely to lose.

“This is a disgraceful act of vandalism to one of the U.K.’s and the world’s oldest and most important monuments,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on X.

It came nearly a week after the Labor Party’s manifesto recommitted Britain to ending all future oil and gas licenses if Labor wins the July 4 parliamentary election, as many have surmised it will, but Just Stop Oil contends the Labor’s plan does not go far enough.

“The U.K.’s government in waiting has committed to enacting Just Stop Oil’s original demand of ‘no new oil and gas,'” a Just Stop Oil spokesperson said. “However, we all know this is not enough.”

“Continuing to burn coal, oil and gas will result in the death of millions. We have to come together to defend humanity or we risk everything,” Just Stop Oil said. “That’s why Just Stop Oil is demanding that our next government sign up to a legally binding treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030.”

But Labor Party leader Keir Starmer called the “damage” done to Stonehenge “outrageous.”

“Just Stop Oil are pathetic,” Starmer put on social media Wednesday morning local time. “Those responsible must face the full force of the law.”

In reply to Starmer about a half hour later, Just Stop Oil willingly took responsibility.

“We are accountable for our actions,” the group posted on X Wednesday morning local time. “When will the oil and gas executives responsible for destroying the lives of millions of people face the full force of the law?”

The group, known for leveling a series or similar past actions in protest of climate change, threw soup in 2022 over Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting in London as part of a protest against climate change the same year a man in the Netherlands in western Europe attempted to glue his head to Johannes Vermeer’s iconic painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” in a Dutch museum.

Just Stop Oil also gave warning of a “failure to commit to defending our communities” which, Just Stop Oil claims, citizens in other countries in Europe like Austria, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland “will join in resistance this summer, if their own Governments do not take meaningful action.”

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