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Two women who tried to break the glass case containing the Magna Carta (10 May)—housed at the British Library in London—have been charged with criminal damage.

The Reverend Sue Parfitt, 82, from Bristol, and Judith Bruce, 85, from Swansea, both from the Just Stop Oil environmental activism group, used a hammer and chisel to try and break the glass case which protects the historic document, according to the Metropolitan Police. “The library’s security team intervened to prevent further damage to the case, which was minimal,” a library statement said.

Both women have been bailed and are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 20 June. With regards to the bail fees, a spokesperson for Just Stop Oil told The Art Newspaper that the group, “wouldn’t have the resources to assist in that way sadly.” They noted that “[t]here are external orgs that can provide some help if people end up in prison for example and need assistance covering living expenses for a time, but obviously resources are limited.”

Just Stop Oil says in a statement that the protestors are “demanding the UK government commit to an emergency plan to end the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal by 2030”. Parfitt adds in a statement: “The Magna Carta is rightly revered, being of great importance to our history, to our freedoms and to our laws. But there will be no freedom, no lawfulness, no rights, if we allow climate breakdown to become the catastrophe that is now threatened.”

Just Stop Oil has previously targeted Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) at London’s National Gallery (October 2022) and Giampietrino’s The Last Supper (1520) at the Royal Academy of Arts in London (July 2022).

Protest

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers covered in tomato soup by eco activists

The Magna Carta is a document created in 1215 that established human rights for English citizens. “Magna Carta set out the laws which the King [the then monarch King John] and everyone else had to follow for the first time,” a UK Parliament text says. The British Library has two of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta in its possession (the two other copies are housed at Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral).

Meanwhile two protestors from France’s Riposte Alimentaire group were arrested 8 May after placing two stickers with the words “Résister est vital” (resisting is vital) next to Eugène Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People (1830) on display at the Louvre in Paris.

Both protestors told the crowds at the museum: “Even today, the criminal elites gorge themselves on our backs. Uniting and resisting them is vital. Let’s enter into civil resistance! Let’s not let a privileged minority decide our future.”

Activists from the group also scattered orange powder around the Galerie des Glaces at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris on 4 May, saying in an Instagram post: “Through this action, Riposte Alimentaire wishes to raise awareness aboutgrowing inequalities, allowing a privileged minority to monopolise part of the resources, while the majority of citizens collect the crumbs.”

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