Climate Activists Charged for Smearing Paint on Display Case of ‘Little Dancer Aged Fourteen’

Climate protesters are arrested after smearing paint on the case that houses Edgar Degas&#
Ellie Silverman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal grand jury indicted a pair of climate activists on Wednesday for smearing paint on the display case holding Edgar Degas’s sculpture ‘Little Dancer Aged Fourteen’ at Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art. 

Timothy Martin and Joanna Smith and a group of unnamed conspirators allegedly entered the museum on April 27 at 11:30 a.m. to make a political statement on climate change by spreading paint on the “case, base and floor” of the exhibit, according to unsealed documents.  

The group from Declare Emergency had allegedly researched potential targets within the museum. They also notified a member of the press of their intended actions. Martin and Smith allegedly poured the paint from water bottles onto the display case while the co-conspirators videotaped and took photos. 

Martin and Smith’s action caused $2,400 in damages, and the exhibit was removed for repairs for ten days, Art News reported.

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Declare Emergency released a statement the day of the incident. The group intended for President Joe Biden “to declare a climate emergency and halt all fossil fuel extraction/infrastructure on Federal and Indigenous lands.”

Today, in non-violent rebellion, we have temporarily sullied a piece of art to evoke the real children whose suffering is guaranteed if the death-cult fossil fuel companies keep removing new coal, oil, and gas from the ground. As a parent, I cannot abide this future. This little dancer is protected in her climate controlled box, but people, animals, and ecosystems currently struggling and dying in extreme weather events are not. President Biden must marshal all necessary resources towards a just transition via an Executive Declaration of Climate Emergency. At the same time, his Administration must cease issuing new drilling permits, and end all fossil fuel subsidies. And ordinary people in great numbers must join us in our call for these actions. We will not be condemned to collapse.

Martin and Smith surrendered themselves on Friday. They are both charged with “conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States” and “injury to National gallery of Art property.” If they are convicted they could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


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