Just Stop Oil’s Spray Paint Stunt at Stonehenge Loses Supporters

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: Jun 21, 2024

A recent stunt by Just Stop Oil protestors has many advocates of the group questioning if the vandalism is really shining a light on the cause. Until recently, many supporters have said that the acts of public disobedience made sense, such as targeting symbols of imperialism and colonialism to highlight the way that consumerism blinds us from deeper issues.

Now, the spray paint vandalism at millenniums-old Stonehenge has some people asking if the stunts are worth it or if they are causing environmental damage while being performative.

Who Is Just Stop Oil?

Just Stop Oil is a British environmental activist group that takes part in extreme acts of public vandalism and defiance to highlight human-caused issues with climate change.

Three woman wearing wool hats and winter coats stand in the street holding signs

Source: Leon Neal/Getty Images

The group has held rallies and performances all over the world but mostly focuses on the British Government and their ability to cease reliance on fossil fuels and plastics. Some common acts include stopping traffic and throwing tomato soup on priceless paintings.

The Group Recently Failed to Target Taylor Swift's Jet

Just two days ago, two people from the activist group spray painted several private jets orange in the hopes of delaying Taylor Swift‘s plane.

A white private jet on tarmac surrounded by black SUVs

Source: @RyanWelchPhotog/X

The pop star has previously been accused of contributing massively to carbon emissions by flying her two private jets hundreds of times a year. As one of the highest polluting celebrities, it’s said that she alone contributes roughly 8,300 tonnes of carbon emissions each year. This amount is 1,800 times that of a regular person’s emissions.

Stonehenge Is the Victim of the Latest Publicity Stunt

Just Stop Oil took their fight for environmentalism to the ancient Pagan site located in the middle of Salisbury Plain, a two-hour train ride outside of London.

Two people spray canisters of orange paint on Stonehenge

Source: @addicted2newz/X

A group of protestors stormed the famous archeological site and sprayed the 5,000-year-old monoliths with their signature orange coating (which is actually made out of cornflour).

The Protest Took Place Days Ahead of Important Event

The now orange stones will sit there until rain and wind remove it, as the stones cannot be touched for cleaning without authorization.

A group of people hold their phones up to tale pictures of the sun setting behind Stonehenge

Source: @EH_Stonehenge/X

The protest took place just days before the summer solstice on June 20th, when thousands of Pagans are expected to visit the site during the longest day of the year.

Do These Types of Protests Work?

The obtrusive nature of protests means that regular people pay more attention to the cause when they are inconvenienced. However, many critics of the movement say that the protests do more harm than good.

A woman with red hair speaks through a bull horn at a protesting event

Source: Clem Onojeguo/Unsplash

Although they usually do not affect public policy directly, there have been some rare instances when they do work. In general, though, a government is likelier to listen to citizens who agree on a topic. Disruptive protests often cause regular citizens to turn their back on the cause after being personally inconvenienced, which is ultimately unhelpful.


Many Supporters Think the Recent Stunt Goes Too Far

Even supporters of the Just Stop Oil movement think that vandalizing an archeological site is sacrilegious and goes too far.

A group of people wearing orange shirts at a protest

Source: @TobyonTV/X

It also has little effect on the government and their ability to enact green initiatives. Instead of taking part in vandalism far away from the issues at hand, many supporters think that the fight should be brought directly to the British Parliament.


Stonehenge Has Nothing To Do with Consumerism or Environmental Destruction

The usual targets for vandalism and protest are billionaires, oil companies, and the government that supports the ongoing use of fossil fuels.

A view of Stonehenge surrounded by green grass and blue skies

Source: Robert Anderson/Unsplash

Desecrating Stonehenge doesn’t really help their cause. The people who constructed the large stones were considered worshippers of the environment far removed from the sins of the modern world.


Vandalizing Nature Is Counterintuitive

The environmentalist group may need to return to the brainstorming portion of their protests and think of a new angle.

Two women wearing hiking gear using paint rollers to remove scratches off the side of a red rock formation

Source: Arches National Park/Wikipedia Commons

The latest stunt has caught the world’s attention for the wrong reasons. Assaulting nature in any way is counterintuitive to their cause and will most likely lose them support in the coming months.


The Group Doubles Down on the Orange Paint

In an exclusive interview with Good Afternoon Britain, a spokesperson for the group says that the orange paint will simply wash off and that the protest was never meant to harm the statues.

Orange paint settles as two people are arrested next to Stonehenge


Many Brits who are proud of the site are baffled by the stunt and the following comments.


What Was the Goal of the Stunt?

Proponents of the group say that the act was meant to bring attention to the incoming government. Just Stop Oil wants the newly appointed Prime Minister to sign a legally binding treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030.

A closeup of the grey stones at Stonehenge

Source: Stephanie LeBlanc/Unsplash

Although the original plan to drastically reduce fossil fuel usage by 2030 was agreed upon by various world leaders, including President Joe Biden, many people, such as the Governor of Virginia,  have opposed the changes.


Two People Arrested at the Event

Due to the criminal activity at Stonehenge, the two men seen in videos dispatching the orange material have been arrested.

A view of Stonehenge at sunset

Source: Hulki Okan Tabak/Unsplash

Despite the attention being brought to the subject, many think that the tactics being used by Just Stop Oil will ultimately hurt the cause.