Climate Activists Spray Stonehenge With Orange Paint

Protesters with Just Stop Oil are demanding that the British government phase out fossil fuels by 2030

Just Stop Oil Stonehenge Protest
Just Stop Oil protesters Rajan Naidu, 73, and Niamh Lynch, 21, sit in front of Stonehenge after covering the monument in orange powder. Just Stop Oil

Two climate activists affiliated with Just Stop Oil have sprayed orange paint on Stonehenge, the prehistoric rock circle in England. The stunt took place on Wednesday—a day ahead of the summer solstice, when thousands journey to the landmark to watch the sunrise align with the ancient stones.

In a video posted to social media, the two protesters—Niamh Lynch, 21, and Rajan Naidu, 73—are seen running up to the monument and spraying multiple stones with a bright orange substance. Others nearby cry out and try to intervene. According to the Wiltshire Police, officers arrested the pair shortly after the incident.

The group has demanded that the British government sign a “legally binding treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030,” per a statement from Just Stop Oil.

“The orange cornflour we used to create an eye-catching spectacle will soon wash away with the rain, but the urgent need for effective government action to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the climate and ecological crisis will not,” says Naidu in the statement.

Just Stop Oil is known for staging controversial protests against fossil fuels. These demonstrations often target the protective casings of historic documents and artworks, resulting in minimal damage to the objects themselves.

However, this particular protest is “a bit of an escalation,” as the protesters applied the paint directly to the monument, says Shannon Gibson, a scholar of environmental politics and social movements at the University of Southern California, to the Washington Post’s Kelsey Ables.

By choosing Stonehenge, Gibson adds that the protesters are providing “a juxtaposition between what has withstood the test of time and what will not if we don’t solve the climate crisis.”

According to a statement from English Heritage, the organization that runs Stonehenge, experts have already removed the powder from the structure.

“We moved quickly due to the risk that the powder would harm the important and rare lichens growing on the stones,” says the organization. “While we are relieved that there appears to be no visible damage, the very act of removing the powder can—in itself—have a harmful impact by eroding the already fragile stone and damaging the lichens.”

Several British political leaders have condemned the demonstration. “Just Stop Oil are a disgrace,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote in a succinct post on X (formerly Twitter). In another post, Keir Starmer, Sunak’s political opponent in the upcoming election, called the group “pathetic” and the damage “outrageous,” adding: “Those responsible must face the full force of the law.”

Stonehenge has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986. It was constructed in many stages about 5,000 years ago, and historians think its builders designed the stones to align with the sun’s movement.

“Stonehenge at solstice is all about celebrating the natural world—but look at the state it’s in!” says Lynch in the statement. “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.”

Lynch hopes that the controversial protest will not go unnoticed, adding: “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.”

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