Climate change activists around the world have adopted some increasingly extreme forms of protest in recent years, including the destruction of public property and other attention-grabbing stunts.
Museums housing some of humanity’s most recognizable works of art have also been common targets of these protesters, and many mainstream media outlets have reacted with disinterest — or even a measured amount of praise — to their defiant criminal acts.
In the case of one recent incident at the National Gallery of Art, the Washington Post reportedly knew about the planned vandalism before the fact.
According to a statement from the Department of Justice, individuals involved in the April 27 demonstration, which involves dousing the exhibit of a famous sculpture with paint, shared their plans with reporters.
“Members of the conspiracy had alerted the Washington Post, and two reporters from the Post recorded and photographed the offense,” the Justice Department stated. “Additionally, other members of the conspiracy filmed and photographed the offense.”
The group that claimed responsibility for staging the protest, Declare Emergency, has reportedly engaged in similarly disruptive acts in the past, including by blocking traffic in D.C. and staging a protest at last year’s congressional baseball game.
Two members of the group — Joanna Smith and Timothy Martin — are facing up to five years behind bars for each of a pair of charges against them. Although Edgar Degas’ sculpture “Little Dancer, Age Fourteen” was protected by a case, the display was removed for 10 days for repairs that totaled $2,400, according to the Justice Department.
Other activist groups, most notably Just Stop Oil, have been engaged in similar forms of environmental protests recently.
🦺 Every time a billioniare-owned-newspaper publishes an article encouraging crackdowns on protest, we print another hi-vis jacket.
It's been a busy week.
— Just Stop Oil (@JustStop_Oil) May 27, 2023
Spokesperson Emma Brown defended the organization’s tactics, asserting that it is crucial to stage outrageous stunts in order to attract attention.
“There is that moment of smugglers’ security and that kind of outrage that people feel is justified. It is shocking what we’re doing,” she said. “If we take action that people can ignore, you know, so if we stood in a park somewhere with some placards, and people didn’t know about it, it didn’t disturb them. They didn’t even hear about it. That would be a completely ineffective form of protest.”