UK-based environmental activist group Just Stop Oil announced on November 1 that they would pause their protest actions until November 4 after more than a month spent carrying out disruptions, but warned that they would return to the field with fresh fury should the government fail to take action on their demand that it cease issuing new oil and gas licenses. The udpate arrived in the wake of new UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s reversal of his decision not to attend the COP climate-change summit in Egypt next week, and followed on the heels of Just Stop Oil’s efforts to bring widespread notice to the negative global effects of climate change by sousing Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 Sunflowers with tomato soup at London’s National Gallery. No harm was done to the work, which was protected by glass.
“We are giving time to those in the Government who are in touch with reality to consider their responsibilities to this country at this time,” tweeted the organization, whose members have been blocking roads in London for over thirty days as part of their protest. They added in a separate post, “If, as we sadly expect, we receive no response from ministers to our demand by the end of Friday 4 Nov, we will escalate our legal disruption against this treasonous Govt. Our action will be proportionate to the task of stopping the crime against humanity which is new oil & gas.”
Just Stop Oil’s art-related protests have galvanized public sentiment, which is sharply divided between those who support the demonstrators’ push to raise the alarm about fossil fuel-spurred climate change and those who believe that art is outside the protesters’ purview and thus should not be targeted. The activists’ efforts have inspired others to undertake similar actions, among them German climate-change action group Lezte Generation, whose members splattered the glass protecting Monet’s 1890 Meules with mashed potato at Potsdam, Germany’s Museum Barberini in late October. Several days later, two Belgian environmental activists—unaffiliated with Just Stop Oil but wearing T-shirts bearing the group’s name—approached Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in The Hague, with one gluing his head to glass covering the renowned 1665 painting. Despite the work’s being undamaged, the pair on November 2 were sentenced to two months in prison.