Who defaced Stonehenge and is Gaza war involved?

Who defaced Stonehenge and is Gaza war involved?
Footage posted on social media showed activists spraying a cluster of the megalithic standing stones with the orange substance from a small canister.
3 min read
19 June, 2024
View of the famous and protected Stonehenge site from the ground floor during daytime featuring a covered sky and green grass and no people. The picture was taken in Witshire, England. [Getty Images]

UK police arrested two people on Wednesday after activists sprayed an orange substance on Stonehenge, the renowned prehistoric UNESCO world heritage site in southwest England.

Footage posted on social media showed activists spraying a cluster of the megalithic standing stones with the orange substance from a small canister.

Wiltshire Police said in a statement that it had arrested two people following the incident.

"Officers attended the scene and arrested two people on suspicion of damaging the ancient monument," the force added.

"Our inquiries are ongoing and we are working closely with English Heritage."

The incident comes in the middle of the campaign for a general election on July 4. It drew condemnation from the leaders of Britain's main political parties.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called it "a disgraceful act of vandalism to one of the UK's and the world's oldest and most important monuments".

Labour leader Keir Starmer, who polls predict will be the next prime minister, said it was "outrageous".

"Those responsible must face the full force of the law," he added, in a sentiment echoed by Ed Davey, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats.

Gaza War

It emerged later that the activists were part of the Just Stop Oil environmental protest group.

The group said two activists had "decorated Stonehenge in orange powder paint" to demand that Britain's next government legally commit to phasing out fossil fuels by 2030.

The group said Niamh Lynch, a 21-year-old student, and Rajan Naidu, 73, had used "orange cornflour" for the stunt.

It claimed the substance would "soon wash away with the rain". English Heritage, the public body which manages the site, said its experts were probing "the extent of the damage" to the circle of stones some of which are believed to date back 5,000 years.

Just Stop Oil, formed in 2022, wants an end to new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea off the UK's east coast.

It has staged numerous protests, primarily aimed at disrupting events, institutions or aspects of daily life, leading to thousands of its activists being arrested and scores jailed.

The latest action was staged on the day before the Summer Solstice festival, when crowds gather at Stonehenge to celebrate the northern hemisphere's summer solstice.

A spokesperson said that although the Labour party, which is expected to win next month's election, has vowed not to issue any new oil and gas drilling licences, "we all know this is not enough".

While pro-Palestine activists have in the past resorted to direct action to draw attention to the ongoing genocide in Gaza, throwing red paint on the UK Ministry of Defence building in April, they are not known to engage in attention-seeking stunts involving art and historic sites.

Still, pro-Palestine activists on social media reacting to the Stonehenge stunt said UK leaders appear to be more interested in outrage for washable paint on Stonehenge than addressing the plight of Gaza's children.

"Hate to do this again, but, seeing more people cross about some cornflour on Stonehenge than the photos of a decapitated child from Gaza which is doing the rounds," wrote one X (formerly Twitter) user in a widely shared post.

Reading to Keir Starmer's post, another wrote: "More outraged by a bit of cornflower in Stonehenge than about the slaughter of nearly 40,000 human beings in Gaza. The idea of this man as PM actually frightens me."

Agencies contributed to this report