‘Just Stop Oil’ Protestors Cover Stonehenge in Powder Paint

Protestors from the activist group 'Just Stop Oil' covered Stonehenge in orange powder paint a day before the site's Summer Solstice events.

Jun 20, 2024By Rosie Lesso, Managing Editor & Curator

stonehenge damage protest


Two ‘Just Stop Oil’ campaigners staged a protest at Stonehenge on Wednesday this week. Both the vandals, who have been identified as Rajan Naidu, 73, and Niamh Lynch, 21, have now been arrested. They sprayed orange powder paint on the ancient UNESCO world heritage site near Salisbury, Wiltshire just before the Summer Solstice events are due to take place. Video footage of the attack shows the pair clearly wearing Just Stop Oil t-shirts running up to the monolithic structure with spray cans of orange paint. The pair who carried out the vandalism said the orange paint was cornflower that would “soon wash away with rain.” The site remains open to the public.


Public Outrage

Video footage showing the protestors at work. Source: Youtube


Many members of the public who were visiting the site gasped with horror as the pair carried out their protest, while some tried to intervene by grabbing the spray paint from one of the protestors. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the action a “disgraceful act of vandalism to one of the UK’s and the world’s oldest and most important monuments”, and leader of the British Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer called the activity “outrageous,” and “pathetic”, arguing, “Those responsible must face the full face of the law.” On social media the stunt has also been heavily criticized.


The Damage will be Investigated

Source: English Heritage


The two vandals claimed they used orange cornflower on the surface of Stonehenge to create what they called “an eye catching spectacle”. While they claim it will be quickly washed away when the rain sets in, a spokesperson for English Heritage said it will still require closer inspection by a team of experts in order to ensure the site remains carefully preserved. She said, “Obviously, this is extremely upsetting and our curators are investigating the extent of the damage.”


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Some have expressed a particular concern for the organic matter that exists on the surface of the prehistoric rocks at Stonehenge. A guide for the area named Sean Moran told the Guardian, “It was devastating… There’s living lichen on those stones. Biologists from around the world [come] to study it. Did they think of that?” Echoing this sentiment, the historian Tom Holland wrote on X, formerly Twitter, ” Parade your concern for the planet by destroying endangered lichens. Sympathy transmuted into utter loathing.”


A Call to End Oil Extraction and Burning

Just Stop Oil protestors. Source: Pink News


Just Stop Oil have outlined the reason for the protest at Stonehenge was to issue a call to action on fossil fuels in the build up to the next UK general election. They made a plea to the next government to end the extraction and burning of oil, gas, and coal, stating, “We have to come together to defend humanity or we risk everything.” They said in an issued statement that the time was for “megalithic” action, arguing, “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.”


They added a warning that groups around the world are poised to stage similar stunts on stone circles if no action is taken.


In Time With the Summer Solstice

Source: English Heritage


The vandalism has taken place at Stonehenge’s busiest time of year, as revelers are preparing to descend on the site to celebrate the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year. Last year Stonehenge attracted around 8,000 people who made a pilgrimage to the ancient site, where they camped overnight to watch the sunrise. Similar numbers of tourists are expected this year.

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By Rosie LessoManaging Editor & CuratorRosie has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly and Scottish Art News. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can enrich our experience of art.