Climate activists spray England's ancient Stonehenge monument with orange paint

The demonstration occurred a day before thousands of people are expected to gather at the site for the summer solstice.
Posted at 3:35 PM, Jun 19, 2024

Environmental activists sprayed orange powder paint on southern England's ancient Stonehenge monument Wednesday, just a day before thousands of visitors are expected to visit the structure to celebrate the summer solstice.

British climate activist group Just Stop Oil posted a video on X showing two members using fire extinguishers to douse at least three of the some 5,000-year-old standing stones with the orange substance as someone tried to pull them back.

"Two people took action the day before Summer Solstice, demanding the incoming government sign up to a legally binding treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030," the post read.

Wiltshire Police said they arrested the two protesters "on suspicion of damaging the ancient monument." In another post on X, Just Stop Oil — which revealed the protesters as 21-year-old Oxford student Niamh Lynch and 73-year-old Rajan Naidu — shared a video of the moment the pair were being taken into custody and assured that the paint they used wasn't permanent.

"The paint is 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 post read.

Still, English Heritage, which manages the site, said on an official Stonehenge X account that the form of protest was "extremely upsetting" and said its curators were investigating the extent of the damage, though it will keep the site open.

Since its founding in 2022, Just Stop Oil has primarily focused on the human connection to climate change and has pushed for the United Kingdom to divest from the fossil fuel industry. But the group has drawn much criticism over the years due to their protest techniques, which have included vandalism, stopping traffic and disrupting events.

In a post on X Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called Just Stop Oil "a disgrace."

Meanwhile, Lynch, one of the activisits who sprayed the UNESCO World Heritage Site on England's Salisbury Plain, said the act was an intentional spectacle.

"Stonehenge at solstice is all about celebrating the natural world, but look at the state it's in," he said. "We all have a right to live a life free from suffering, but continued burning of oil, coal and gas is leading to death and suffering on an unparalleled scale. It's time for us to think about what our civilization will leave behind — what is our legacy? Standing inert for generations works well for stones — not climate policy."

Just Stop Oil said its supporters and international partners will continue to take "the proportional action necessary to generate much-needed political pressure" until "world leaders act to protect us."