Court Battles

Climate protesters face federal charges for smearing paint on Degas sculpture case

"Little Dancer," a sculpture by French artist Edgar Degas
Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images
“Little Dancer,” a sculpture by French artist Edgar Degas, is seen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Two climate change protesters are facing federal charges after they smeared paint on the display case containing a famous sculpture by Edgar Degas at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., last month. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said in a release that 53-year-olds Timothy Martin of North Carolina and Joanna Smith of New York were charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and injury to a National Gallery of Art exhibit. Both turned themselves in to authorities. 

The release states that a group called Declare Emergency, which conducts protests to oppose the continued use of fossil fuels, claimed credit for the incident. 

Two protesters were seen smearing red and black paint on the case and pedestal of “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” by Degas, a prominent 19th and 20th century French artist. 

“We need our leaders to take serious action, to tell us the truth about what is happening with the climate,” one protester was heard saying on a video recording of the incident.

The indictment against Martin and Smith alleges that they agreed to enter the gallery for the purpose of damaging the exhibit, armed with plastic water bottles that contained paint. It states that they at times hit the exhibit “with force” with the paint. 

The release states that members of the conspiracy notified The Washington Post of their plans in advance, and two reporters and other uncharged conspirators took a video of the incident. 

The release alleges that Martin and Smith caused $2,400 in damage. 

Each charge they face carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, but their sentences if convicted would be based on sentencing guidelines and other factors. 

The exhibit needed to be removed from public display for 10 days for repairs before being made available again, according to the release.

Tags climate protest Edgar Degas Little Dancer Aged Fourteen National Gallery of Art

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