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UK activists plead not guilty to damaging Van Gogh painting

October 15, 2022

The two women were arrested and charged with criminal damage for throwing soup at Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" painting at the National Gallery in London. They've been released on bail.

The two women who threw soup at a Vincent van Gogh painting stand before it, in the National Gallery in London
The group has staged numerous attacks on artworks in recent monthsImage: Just Stop Oil/PA/dpa/picture alliance

Two women, aged 20 and 21, appeared in court on Saturday to face charges of criminal damage after they threw tomato soup at one of Vincent van Gogh's paintings at the National Gallery in London.

A third woman was charged for dousing paint on a sign at the New Scotland Yard headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police.

All three pleaded not guilty to criminal damage during their brief sessions at the Westminster Magistrates' Court.

District Judge Tan Irkam ordered their release on bail on the condition they don't have paint or adhesive substances on them in public spaces, the Associated Press newsagency reported.

Why were they arrested?

The women were part of the climate activist group Just Stop Oil that has been demanding the UK government put a stop to new oil and gas projects. 

The group has been demonstrating in the British capital for two weeks now, often taking aim at national treasures. 

On Friday, the two women threw tomato soup from Heinz cans onto Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers," painted in the 1880s. They then glued their hands to the gallery wall.

Prosecutor Ola Oyedepo said the pair did not harm the oil painting thanks to a glass protective case. But damage was caused to the frame, she said.

The painting was cleaned and put back on display by Friday afternoon.

Police said they made some 28 arrests in relation to protests by the group on Friday.

rm/nm (Reuters, AP)