Protesters Just Targeted the Mona Lisa by Throwing Soup at the Masterpiece. Here’s Why

Protesters Just Targeted the Mona Lisa by Throwing Soup at the Masterpiece. Here’s Why

Two environmental activists threw soup on Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre Museum in Paris on Sunday in a protest for sustainable food and social security, the group behind them said. 

The two activists ducked under a barrier surrounding the famous painting, which is protected by glass, then unzipped their coats to reveal the name of civil resistance climate activist group Riposte Alimentaire, which translates to “food response,” on their t-shirts. They raised one hand each in what looked like they were taking an oath and called for “healthy and sustainable” food, per English translations of videos posted online. Museum staff moved in quickly, using black shields to cover the scene as onlookers cried out in dismay.

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Paris police said two people were arrested, the Associated Press reported. TIME reached out to the police for further information.

Riposte Alimentaire claimed responsibility via social media for the protest action by two people, ages 24 and 63, that took place at 10 a.m. The group, a part of the Europe-wide A22 network of which U.K. climate activist group Just Stop Oil is also a member, says in an English translation of its website that “we are the last generation capable of preventing societal collapse.”

The French group drew attention in its social media posts about their latest action to social, economic, and environmental problems with the food system, with food production accounting for roughly a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

The group highlighted food insecurity in France. A report last year stated that 38% of Europeans no longer eat three meals a day. The agriculture system is broken, the group said, pointing to suicides among farmers feeling the financial squeeze. Currently, French farmers are protesting nationwide, blocking roads and threatening to converge on the capital as they demand better pay and living conditions from the government.

To address “serious food insecurity,” Riposte Alimentaire demanded that food be added to the social security safety net and each resident be given a card topped up with 150 euros ($162) a month to buy “democratically selected” pre-approved products. 

The most recent attention-grabbing protest mirrors a wave of similar actions by climate activists across Europe. In 2022, two Just Stop Oil protesters threw tomato soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting in the National Gallery in London.

Just Stop Oil protesters have also interrupted a West End musical performance, vandalized King Charles III’s Madame Tussauds wax figure, and blocked roads during protests, resulting in mass arrests—all in their bid to get the U.K. government to stop investing in new gas, oil, and coal projects.

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