Just Stop Oil activists smash National Gallery painting famously targeted by suffragette in 1914, as two arrested

6 November 2023, 13:02 | Updated: 6 November 2023, 13:05

Two activists were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.
Two activists were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Picture: Just Stop Oil

By Jenny Medlicott

Two Just Stop Oil activists have been arrested for criminal damage after smashing the glass that was protecting a painting at the National Portrait Gallery.

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The protesters smashed the glass protecting The Rokeby Venus painting by Diego Velazquez in the 1600s - the same painting famously slashed by suffragette Mary Richardson in 1914.

A video shared online by the climate activist group showed the pair in white Just Stop Oil slogan t-shirts before hitting the glass repeatedly with safety hammers. The glass is shown as visibly cracked.

The pair then say: “Women did not get the vote by voting; it is time for deeds not words. It is time to Just Stop Oil.

"Politics is failing us. It failed women in 1914 and it is failing us now.

"New oil and gas will kill millions. If we love art, if we love life, if we love our families, we must Just Stop Oil."

Read more: Just Stop Oil target the Cenotaph: At least 40 arrests as eco-protesters stage ‘die-in’ near memorial

Read more: Judge refuses Just Stop Oil protester's plea to postpone trial because she was planning to fly to India

The pair smashed the glass protecting the painting.
The pair smashed the glass protecting the painting. Picture: Just Stop Oil

Posting to X, the Met Police said following the incident: “Two Just Stop Oil activists have been arrested for criminal damage. The glass protecting a painting at the National Portrait Gallery has been vandalised."

Mary Richardson first slashed the painting in 1914 in a demonstration for the Suffragette movement.

She said at the time: “I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history.”

Just Stop Oil named the pair as Hanan, 22, and Harrison, 20, who have since been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.

A group of activists also target the Cenotaph war memorial.
A group of activists also target the Cenotaph war memorial. Picture: Met Police

The climate group shared a video of the act on X, writing: “Today, our government revealed plans for MORE oil licences, knowing full when it will kill millions. In response, two supporters of Just Stop Oil smashed the Rokeby Venus — previously slashed by suffragette, Mary Richardson in 1914.”

It came as at least 40 Just Stop Oil activists were also arrested on Monday after a group targeted Whitehall, police said.

Over 100 activists from Just Stop Oil staged a slow march down Whitehall, with others staging a ‘die-in’ protest next to the Cenotaph.

The group obstructed traffic near Downing Street were arrested and placed on and around the Cenotaph by police, according to protesters and an officer.

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