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ITNTW: Rebellion of the protesters

Since the dawn of time, protestors have employed dramatic stunts to grab attention, ranging from blocking busy public spaces to vandalising local businesses. Their determination to get their message across seems boundless.

Only recently, after the King’s Birthday long weekend, animal rights protestors vandalised a controversial portrait of King Charles by Jonathan Yeo. Displayed at The Philip Mould Gallery in Central London, the portrait was raided by a duo who stuck an image of Wallace from popular kid’s show Wallace and Gromit on top the monarch’s face, alongside a quote saying ‘No cheese, Gromit. Look at all this cruelty on RSPCA farms’. This nonviolent protest received a wide range of response, with many finding it humorous. However, similar protests in the past have been annoyed, rather than amused. 

The most well known painting across the globe, the Mona Lisa, kept behind a bulletproof glass in Paris’ ‘Louvre’, has also been targeted by protestors. The most recent incident was in early 2024, where environmental activists threw pumpkin soup at the portrait alongside a damning statement, ‘Your agricultural system is sick. Our farmers are dying at work’

A couple of years ago, a similar incident occurred at the London National Gallery, where Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ painting was splashed with tomato soup by climate activists from the group ‘Just Stop Oil’. Their statement after the chaos was, ‘Human creativity and brilliance is on show in this gallery, yet our heritage is being destroyed by our government’s failure to act on the climate and cost of living crisis’. This duo became well-known for their publicity stunts aimed at drawing attention to climate change. 

An incident much closer to home played out in 2022, where four protesters were charged over the peak-hour shutdown on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Two people had glued themselves to the roadway, while the other two climbed onto the roof of a truck, displaying banners and igniting two flares, simultaneously live-streaming the protest calling for climate action. 

Is this the right way to address their message?

One thing is certain: They garner a negative reputation for causing inconveniences to society. These actions draw media attention, generating news coverage and viral memes. These demonstrations are generally non-violent. But any publicity is good publicity right? 

Not necessarily. 

Such stunts can backfire, causing people to actively avoid the issue rather than opening up to the messages being conveyed. A more effective way of educating the public are peaceful protests, such as petitions, and informative social media campaigns that will address their message without provoking backlash, critics argue.

Written by Michelle Yeow, PR & Influencer Coordinator

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