Stonehenge sprayed with orange powder paint by Just Stop Oil activists

Two people have been arrested after Just Stop Oil activists sprayed orange powder paint over Stonehenge.

Rishi Sunak condemned the action, saying: “This is a disgraceful act of vandalism to one of the UK’s and the world’s oldest and most important monuments.”

Dale Vince, the Labour donor and past backer of Just Stop Oil (JSO), responded to a comment by Sunak that a “certain Labour party donor” should condemn the action by saying: “Since Rishi Sunak has asked me personally to comment, I will. I don’t support what JSO did today, it’s that simple. But there are far worse actions we could focus on, far more harmful ones – like pushing two million children and their families into poverty.”

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said the group was “pathetic”. “Those responsible must face the full force of the law,” he said.

Members of the public attempted to stop the spraying and a visitor managed to wrestle a spray can from one of the protesters.

Wiltshire police said: “We have arrested two people following an incident at Stonehenge this afternoon. At around noon, we responded to a report that orange paint had been sprayed on some of the stones by two suspects. Officers attended the scene and arrested two people on suspicion of damaging the ancient monument. Our inquiries are ongoing.”

The protest came as thousands of druids and revellers prepared to travel to the monument for the summer solstice.

Sean Moran, a guide, said: “It was devastating. I was very angry. We were having a great time and enjoying it when it happened. There’s living lichen on those stones. Biologists from around the world [come] to study it … Did they think of that?”

A senior druid and pagan priest, King Arthur Pendragon, said he “totally” disapproved of the Just Stop Oil protest and that the group’s actions “alienate any sympathy” for their cause.

Pendragon, who is standing as an independent parliamentary candidate for the area, said: “Stonehenge is a living, working temple at times of celebration and pilgrimage such as the summer solstice and, as a well-known protester myself, I totally disapprove of such behaviour as demonstrated by these people, who do nothing to enhance and everything to alienate any sympathy anyone has or had for their cause.”

The priest has previously been involved in several protests at the monument and lost a legal challenge over a £15 car parking charge at the site in 2017, claiming the fee breached his human rights.

Paul Anderson, who was visiting the stones from Newcastle upon Tyne, said: “We were around the other side and we saw a lot of orange mist. I can’t see how that’s good publicity, doing something like that to an ancient monument. Coming from Newcastle, after the Sycamore Gap tree was felled, it beggars belief.”

His wife, Elaine Anderson, said: “It’s ruined the day, but not the holiday. I’m not going to let them. How dare you? It’s the last thing you’d expect.”

Mike and Julie, who did not wish to give their surnames and had come from the west coast of the US to visit Stonehenge, said it was a shame the path around the stones was closed after the incident. Mike said: “They are ruining it for people who have come from across the world to have their moment and see it.”

In a statement, JSO said it was time for “megalithic action” and called for the next UK government to agree a plan to stop the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal by 2030.

It said: “Continuing to burn coal, oil and gas will result in the death of millions. We have to come together to defend humanity, or we risk everything. That’s why Just Stop Oil is demanding that our next government sign up to a legally binding treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030.”

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