Oil protesters appear in court after throwing soup at Van Gogh painting

Activists of “Just Stop Oil” glue their hands to the wall after throwing soup at a van Gogh’s painting “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London, Britain October 14, 2022.
Just Stop Oil | Reuters

The climate activists who threw soup over Vincent Van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” painting on Saturday appeared in a London court on charges of criminal damages, several outlets reported.

The two women were protesting as part of the campaign group Just Stop Oil, and they pleaded not guilty at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court during two brief hearings.

After dumping two cans of tomato soup over the Van Gogh oil painting Friday, the protesters also glued themselves to the gallery wall. They were removed by specialists and taken into custody, according to the London Metropolitan Police.

A spokesperson for the National Gallery confirmed that there was no damage to the painting, which is one of the iconic versions of “Sunflowers” that Van Gogh painted in the late 1880s. It has an estimated value of $80.99 million.

“There is some minor damage to the frame but the painting is unharmed,” the spokesperson told CNBC. The painting was covered by glass, and it was cleaned and returned to the National Gallery Friday afternoon.

Just Stop Oil has been protesting in London for the past two weeks, and the group said in a press release that its actions were “in response to the government’s inaction on both the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis.”

“What is worth more, art or life? Is it worth more than food? Worth more than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?” one activist said in a video of the event.

Just Stop Oil has received widespread criticism from environmental groups and politicians from the opposition Labour Party following the protest.

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