Feds charge climate protesters for allegedly defacing Edgar Degas exhibit at National Gallery of Art

Written by on May 26, 2023

Nick Ansell/PA Images via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Two members of a climate activist group were arrested and charged Friday for allegedly defacing an art exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., during a protest last month.

Timothy Martin of North Carolina, and Joanna Smith of New York, both 53, surrendered to authorities after they were indicted on conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and injury to a National Gallery of Art exhibit, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

On April 27, the pair, members of climate activist group Declare Emergency, allegedly entered the gallery and threw red and black paint on the case of the Edgar Degas sculpture “Little Danger Aged Fourteen,” according to prosecutors.

The pair then sat in front of the defaced exhibit with the paint still on their hands and posed for photos, which were later posted on Declare Emergency’s site, investigators said.

“The conspiracy specifically targeted the Little Dancer based on her fragility,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Martin and Smith’s alleged actions caused approximately $2,400 in damage and the exhibit was removed from public display for 10 days so that it could be repaired.

Attorney information for the defendants wasn’t immediately available.

Other protesters who were involved in the museum defacing haven’t been named or charged.

If convicted, Martin and Smith face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

A few days before the museum incident, Declare Emergency shut down a section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, causing heavy traffic jams around Washington, D.C.

Museums and art exhibits have become a growing target for climate activists around the world in the last couple of months.

In October, climate activists threw soup over Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in London’s National Gallery to protest fossil fuel extraction.

In November, two climate activists were arrested after they tried to glue themselves to Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in an Oslo, Norway, museum.

Later that month, protesters from threw a black oily liquid on Gustav Klimt’s painting “Tod und Leben” at the Leopold museum in Vienna, Austria, before gluing their hands to the frame.

ABC News’ Julia Jacobo contributed to this report.

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