Anti-oil protest at Stonehenge, UK

Pro-environment activists Rajan Naidu, 73, and Niamh Lynch, 21, at Stonehenge after spraying orange cornflour on the monument. Screenshot courtesy: metro.co.uk

A 73-year-old Indian-origin man is one of the two ‘Just Stop Oil’ activists arrested by Wiltshire Police yesterday. They sprayed orange powder on the Stonehenge historical landmark in south-west England, United Kingdom.

Rajan Naidu from Birmingham said that the orange cornflour used in protest against the use of fossil fuels was to create “an eye-catching spectacle” that would be washed away by rain.

He was joined by a 21-year-old student from Oxford, named Niamh Lynch, and together they were campaigning against the continued use of coal, oil, and gas.

“Either we end the fossil fuel era, or the fossil fuel era will end us,” said Naidu, in a statement released by Just Stop Oil.

“Just as 50 years ago, when the world used international treaties to defuse the threats posed by nuclear weapons, today the world needs a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to phase out fossil fuels and to support dependent economies, workers and communities to move away from oil, gas, and coal,” said Naidu.

He added, “The orange cornflour we used to create an eye-catching spectacle will soon wash away with the rain, but the urgent need for effective government action to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the climate and ecological crisis will not. Sign the treaty.”

The Just Stop Oil pro-environment group said that the campaigners had “decorated” Stonehenge in orange powder paint to demand that the incoming UK government commit to working with other governments to agree upon a plan to end the extraction and burning of oil, gas, and coal by 2030.

While UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the incident as a “disgraceful act of vandalism”, Opposition Labour Leader Keir Starmer said that the damage was “outrageous”.

A Wiltshire Police statement said: “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 enquiries are ongoing, and we are working closely with English Heritage.”

English Heritage, the charity that oversees the landmark, added: “Orange powdered paint has been thrown at a number of the stones at Stonehenge. Obviously, this is extremely upsetting, and our curators are investigating the extent of the damage. More updates to follow, but the site remains open.”

Stonehenge, a prehistoric megalithic structure on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, is a very popular tourist site in England. Archaeologists believe it was constructed in several phases from around 3100 BC to 1600 BC.