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Just Stop Oil are ready to start slashing famous artworks

A spokesperson from the climate justice group has said that they are prepared to ‘escalate’ their action in order to get their message across

Just Stop Oil protestors are no strangers to throwing soup at works of art or glueing themselves to the frames of famous paintings. But in every instance where their protests have targeted artworks so far, they’ve never intended to cause irreparable damage – instead, the aim has been to shock and intrigue the public and press.

“We never, ever would have considered doing it if we didn’t know that it was behind glass and that we wouldn’t do any damage,” activist Phoebe Plummer said in an interview after throwing soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

But now, they’re threatening to “escalate” their action and slash famous paintings. 24-year-old Alex De Koning, a spokesman for Just Stop Oil, told Sky News that the protest group may follow in the footsteps of suffragettes who “violently slashed paintings in order to get their messages across”. 

In 1914, Mary Richardson hacked at Diego Velazquez’s “The Rokeby Venus” with a meat cleaver, in protest against Emmeline Pankhurst’s arrest. Later that year, Anne Hunt slashed the portrait of Thomas Carlyle in the National Portrait Gallery.

Speaking to Sky News, De Koning said: “If things need to escalate then we're going to take inspiration from past successful movements and we're going to do everything we can. If that’s unfortunately what it needs to come to, then that’s unfortunately what it needs to come to. We’re fighting for our lives, why would we do any less?”

When De Koning was asked if they would intentionally damage paintings in future protests, he said: “It could potentially come to that in the future, yeah.”

De  Koning added that Just Stop Oil activists were “not going to be intimidated” by the prospect of prison time. “At least in prison you get three meals a day and shelter and water,” he said. “In 20 years’ time, who knows if that’s still the case for millions of people.”

When asked if he would feel guilty about condoning the destruction of art, De Koning said: “it’s obviously terrible. Yes, of course, we don’t want to be doing things like that.”

“The question you need to be asking is why on earth would students, grandparents, engineers, doctors, nurses, do something like that? It’s because our government is behaving criminally.” He stressed that if new oil and gas projects aren’t halted, then “millions more people are going to die and can’t appreciate that artwork”.

“We’re not even going to have a habitable planet for this artwork and for us to live on,” he added.

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