Climate Activists Throw Tomato Soup at Van Gogh Painting

Protests receive heavy backlash for “uncalled-for” tactics


Just Stop Oil

Activists Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland glued to the London National Gallery wall

by Isabel Andjell, Staff Writer

In October, two protestors walked into London’s National Gallery and threw tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” They then removed their jackets to reveal shirts that said: “Just Stop Oil,” and glued themselves to the gallery wall. They were arrested at the site of the protest and taken into custody. Both women belong to the climate activist group Just Stop Oil, which has used civil disobedience and resistance in the UK to stop new fossil fuel licensing and production.

In July, members glued themselves to a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” at the Royal Academy of Art in London. The gallery said on Twitter that the soup had not damaged the painting but had minimally harmed its frame. Just Stop Oil confirmed they had known the painting was enclosed in glass and that the soup would not damage it. People on all ends of the political spectrum have criticized these actions.

Just Stop Oil spokesperson, Alex de Koning, said that while he was worried about natural supporters of climate advocacy getting pushed away with heavy vandalism, “We are not trying to make friends here, we are trying to make change, and unfortunately, this is the way that change happens.”

The protest has raised a question that has no simple answer: Will such startling efforts truly spark action against climate change; or will they only spark conversations criticizing them? This protest got the media’s attention almost immediately, but the majority’s reaction has been to ridicule the action and pay no mind to the climate issue. While the effectiveness of these protests is still debated, more protests will take place.

Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director of the Climate Emergency Fund said, “This is a rapidly growing movement and the next two weeks will be, I hope, the most intense period of climate action to date, so buckle up.”