On Protests: Tomato soup and glue won’t bring the change we need.


In recent news, protests from the organization, “Just Stop Oil” have been creating a call to action against the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels. These protests against oil investing aim to attack the root cause of climate change — continued investment in future use of polluting technologies. 

While the movement originally started in the United Kingdom, it has quickly become a global phenomenon, with followers all over the world. What started as a peaceful protest has now become a movement of destruction, albeit an unusual type.

These activists have taken their message to popular places, the most recent and high profile example being a stunt that involved the attempted destruction of a famous painting by Vincent van Gogh with Tomato soup. One could consider these acts of destruction a “social trend” — with activists publicly gluing body parts to floors and walls after throwing food at priceless pieces of art. Similar acts of public demonstration involving significant works of culture have grown popular — after all, monkeys see monkeys do. Is this really making a difference though? 

“Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?” asked protestor Phoebe Plummer, who was involved in the protest that temporarily damaged Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” Plummer later said, “The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of the oil crisis, fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup.” One could argue that any publicity is good publicity, but is this truly the case? 

When Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland glued themselves to the wall after throwing tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers piece, many bystanders were furious. Publicity is not beneficial when one’s misguided message is upsetting the target audience. Similar reactions were seen among bystanders when mash potatoes were hurled at one of Claude Monet paintings nine days after Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers incident. “We are not trying to make friends here, we are trying to make change, and unfortunately this is the way that change happens,” said Just Stop Oil spokesperson Alex De Koning. 

While many of Just Stop Oil protests are shocking, they aren’t bringing about change. Many of their stunts involve temporary destruction of public property or historic artifacts in order to gain the public eye. The attention getter is there but the informative is not. Many bystanders are only seeing the destruction of something they value and are being affected by the negative outcomes of the protests. Bystanders don’t have the patience or want to understand the message behind recent protests when it’s an inconvenience to them. 

While I believe that change needs to be brought about, throwing food at art is not the way to do it. It only gets a rise out of people and does nothing for the movement except mild publicity which will eventually become “old news.” After all, you can’t go around throwing soup at paintings forever… However I might favor a chicken noodle soup next time.



Brooke Ellis is from Cottage Grove, Minn.

Her major is undeclared. 


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