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Fully Three Quarters Of Voters Say Climate Activists Who Vandalize Artworks Should Face Charges, Poll Shows As DC Gallery Duo Face Jail For Degas Paint Attack

Voters overwhelmingly want activist art vandals to face charges and even jail

Climate protesters after smearing paint on the case that houses Edgar Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 27, 2023. Photo by Ellie Silverman/The Washington Post via Getty Images.
Editor's note: This story by James Reinl, based on the Poll, appeared on the DailyMail website.
  • Voters overwhelmingly want activist art vandals to face charges and even jail
  • Comes after first major US artwork attack on a beloved statue in Washington
  • The activists, Declare Emergency, are planning more publicity stunts in summer
  • Read our exclusive about European activists bringing chaos to the US in August

Fully three quarters of US voters say climate change activists should face criminal charges and even jail time for vandalizing beloved artworks, an exclusive poll shows.

A survey of nearly 1,400 US voters found that 75 percent agreed in tough police action against those who deface masterpieces, such as the two activists who smeared paint on the case of a priceless Degas sculpture in Washington DC in April.

The results come as the group behind that protest, Declare Emergency, was planning to dramatically increase the number of protests, publicity stunts and highway blockages they carry out this summer.

It also follows activists Tim Martin of North Carolina, and Joanna Smith of New York, both 53, getting charged late last month over a conspiracy to damage the artwork in Washington. They face a $250,000 fine and five years in prison.

Fully three quarters of US voters say climate change activists should face charges for vandalizing cherished artworks

In our survey, nearly half of respondents said they 'strongly' felt climate activists should face charges for damaging artworks. Another 28 percent 'agreed somewhat'. Only 13 percent disagreed; 11 percent said they were not sure.

Republicans were slightly more in favor of locking up activist vandals than were Democrats, but the results were similar between members of America's two main parties.

Martin and Smith have been charged with smearing paint on the case and the base of Degas' Little Dancer, Age Fourteen, on April 27.

They caused some $2,400 in damage, and the exhibit had to be removed from public display for ten days while it was repaired.

Declare Emergency has launched an online fundraiser to cover their legal costs. So far, it's raised about $3,500 of the $20,000 organizers say is needed to keep Martin and Smith out of jail.

Martin is unrepentant. Speaking with fellow activists in a videoconference this weekend, he called the gallery stunt a 'good thing' as he made plans for bigger protests this summer.

'We struck a chord there ... so that's a good thing,' said Martin, of Raleigh.

He said Declare Emergency was planning more stunts and protests in August, emulating the success of Extinction Rebellion and other European climate activist groups that have shuttered cities and airports across the Atlantic.

This could well include more disturbances on 'federal properties, like the museums,' he added.

Republicans were slightly more in favor of punishing activist vandals than were Democrats, but the results were similar across parties

Martin, an architect, said he was 'looking for a good attorney' to fight the charges, but that he was also prepared to go to prison to highlight the dangers of burning fossil fuels.

'I can get some books read and some things written,' he said.

'I would love to have plenty of time to read more — they do let you do that.'

Climate activists have increasingly turned to vandalizing artworks to draw attention to emissions of planet-heating gases — but most of these antics have targeted European galleries.

Campaigners last year splashed soup onto a Vincent van Gogh painting in Rome and another in London's National Gallery.

In Australia, activists graffitied and glued themselves to Andy Warhol art, while in The Hague, others glued themselves to Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring painting.

That could be changing, amid revelations that Europe's top climate activists are planning a 'large-scale civil disobedience campaign' of highway blockages, hunger strikes and other protests in the US in August.

Leaders from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and other European groups known for their large-scale disturbances are rapidly expanding their US franchise, Declare Emergency, to create mayhem on this side of the Atlantic.

In a videoconference, which attended, the Europeans taught their US allies how to raise money, boost membership and recruit scores of 'arrestable' members to spearhead the most aggressive protests.

In Europe, those groups have assembled tens of thousands of protestors and brought cities to a standstill, causing millions of dollars of losses, but it remains unclear if they can replicate that success on this side of the pond.

'What we want to do is create a large-scale civil disobedience campaign on the climate catastrophe in the United States,' Roger Hallam, the co-founder of XR, told the online gathering of a few dozen US-based activists.

Hallam, who co-founded XR's US-based sister organization Declare Emergency last year, said he had raised $1 million in the past week and laid out plans for aggressively recruiting 1,000 members in the coming weeks.

The seasoned activist, speaking from the UK, said his organizational tactics were 'not that complicated, have worked in many countries, and we see no reason why they shouldn't work in the US.'

UN experts say planet-heating gases are making Earth dangerously hot, but the US, China, and other world governments have set ambitious targets to reduce the risk by switching to clean energy sources over the coming years.

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