Activists spray Stonehenge with orange powder paint


Two people have been arrested after Just Stop Oil activists sprayed orange powder paint over Stonehenge.

Rishi Sunak condemned the action, saying: “This is a disgraceful act of vandalism to one of the UK’s and the world’s oldest and most important monuments.”

Dale Vince, the Labour donor and past backer of Just Stop Oil (JSO), responded to a comment by Sunak that a “certain Labour party donor” should condemn the action by saying: “Since Rishi Sunak has asked me personally to comment, I will. I don’t support what JSO did today, it’s that simple. But there are far worse actions we could focus on, far more harmful ones – like pushing two million children and their families into poverty.”

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said the group was “pathetic”. “Those responsible must face the full force of the law,” he said.

Members of the public attempted to stop the spraying and a visitor managed to wrestle a spray can from one of the protesters.

Wiltshire police said: “We have arrested two people following an incident at Stonehenge this afternoon. At around noon, we responded to a report that orange paint had been sprayed on some of the stones by two suspects. Officers attended the scene and arrested two people on suspicion of damaging the ancient monument. Our inquiries are ongoing.”

The protest came as thousands of druids and revellers prepared to travel to the monument for the summer solstice.

Sean Moran, a guide, said: “It was devastating. I was very angry. We were having a great time and enjoying it when it happened. There’s living lichen on those stones. Biologists from around the world [come] to study it … Did they think of that?”

A senior druid and pagan priest, King Arthur Pendragon, said he “totally” disapproved of the Just Stop Oil protest and that the group’s actions “alienate any sympathy” for their cause.

Pendragon, who is standing as an independent parliamentary candidate for the area, said: “Stonehenge is a living, working temple at times of celebration and pilgrimage such as the summer solstice and, as a well-known protester myself, I totally disapprove of such behaviour as demonstrated by these people, who do nothing to enhance and everything to alienate any sympathy anyone has or had for their cause.”

The priest has previously been involved in several protests at the monument and lost a legal challenge over a £15 car parking charge at the site in 2017, claiming the fee breached his human rights.

Paul Anderson, who was visiting the stones from Newcastle upon Tyne, said: “We were around the other side and we saw a lot of orange mist. I can’t see how that’s good publicity, doing something like that to an ancient monument. Coming from Newcastle, after the Sycamore Gap tree was felled, it beggars belief.”

His wife, Elaine Anderson, said: “It’s ruined the day, but not the holiday. I’m not going to let them. How dare you? It’s the last thing you’d expect.”

Mike and Julie, who did not wish to give their surnames and had come from the west coast of the US to visit Stonehenge, said it was a shame the path around the stones was closed after the incident. Mike said: “They are ruining it for people who have come from across the world to have their moment and see it.”

In a statement, JSO said it was time for “megalithic action” and called for the next UK government to agree a plan to stop the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal by 2030.

It said: “Continuing to burn coal, oil and gas will result in the death of millions. We have to come together to defend humanity, or we risk everything. That’s why Just Stop Oil is demanding that our next government sign up to a legally binding treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030.”

Extremely upsetting

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the incident as a “disgraceful act of vandalism”.

Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer said the damage was “outrageous” and described Just Stop Oil as “pathetic”.

Members of the public were heard shouting “no” and seen running to intervene as the campaigners ran up to the stone circle at the Unesco world heritage site.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage described the spraying of the monument as “extremely upsetting” and confirmed the site remained open to the public.

She said the incident would not affect the annual summer solstice, with celebrations still planned to take place overnight on Thursday.

BBC correspondent, Paul Clifton, the first reporter to get to the scene shortly after the incident, said the three stones closest to the public path were “splattered” with the powder.

He added that many of the tourists visiting the monument were “slightly bemused”.

“Stonehenge managers and security guards are standing by the path,” he said.

“I’ve heard a suggestion that because it is powder paint and the weather is dry and sunny, it may perhaps be removed without lasting damage, but they will need experts to inspect the stone before forming an opinion.”

Just Stop Oil said the motivation behind the incident was to demand the next UK government end the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal by 2030.

A spokesperson for the group said: “Continuing to burn coal, oil and gas will result in the death of millions.

“We have to come together to defend humanity or we risk everything.”

Mark Verbinnen, councillor for Amesbury East and Bulford, arrived at the site a few minutes after the incident.

He said many members of staff at the site were left “shaken”, particularly one who attempted to tackle a protester.

Mike Pitts, archaeologist and author of How to Build Stonehenge, said the impact of the action was “potentially quite concerning”.

He said: “The monument has been fenced off for decades and the megaliths’ surfaces are protected.

“They are sensitive and they are completely covered in prehistoric markings which remain to be fully studied and any surface damage to the stones is hugely concerning.

“A rich garden of life has grown on the megaliths, an exceptional lichen garden has grown. So it’s potentially quite concerning.”

A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said: “We responded to a report that orange paint had been sprayed on some of the stones by two suspects.

“Our enquiries are ongoing and we are working closely with English Heritage.”

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