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Who is Just Stop Oil, the group that threw soup on Van Gogh's painting?

Activists threw soup at a Van Gogh painting in London. They were protesting new oil and gas production.
Just Stop Oil
Activists threw soup at a Van Gogh painting in London. They were protesting new oil and gas production.

The climate activists of Just Stop Oil have gained visibility since their Friday demonstration in which protesters threw Heinz tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers painting at London's National Gallery. On Saturday, the pair were joined in court by another Just Stop Oil supporter who had doused a Scotland Yard sign in yellow paint.

Members of the U.K.-based group have previously gained attention for gluing themselves to paintings at art galleries and blocking roads and even racetracks.

The activists say their goal is to "ensure that the government commits to ending all new licenses and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK."

The U.K. government earlier this month opened a new round of licensing for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea off of England's east coast.

The protest movement says it practices nonviolent civil resistance in the effort to get the government to take action.

Through the spring, Just Stop Oil said its members were arrested more than 1,000 times during a monthslong protest campaign in which people blocked oil terminals.

Just Stop Oil protesters block the road at the back of Downing Street on Wednesday in London.
Rob Pinney / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Just Stop Oil protesters block the road at the back of Downing Street on Wednesday in London.

Most of the money for its operations comes from the Climate Emergency Fund, based in Los Angeles, which began with a foundational grant of $500,000 from Getty Oil heiress Aileen Getty. Filmmaker Adam McKay made a $4 million contribution and joined its board of directors last month.

Since the soup incident on Friday, some critics have pointed out that Just Stop Oil accepts donations in cryptocurrency, which has a reputation for having a devastating impact on the environment.

After gluing themselves to the National Gallery wall under the painting on Friday, one of the activists shouted, "What is worth more, art or life? ... Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet?"

The U.K. is facing an energy crisis which is set to cause 13% of an average household's income to go toward home energy and vehicle fuel. This follows the European Union's decision to ban most Russian oil by December.

Fossil fuels are the biggest driver of climate-warming emissions. Since the preindustrial era, the climate has already warmed by more than 1 degree Celsius, leading to more extreme wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Halisia Hubbard