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Just Stop Oil eco-zealots have smashed the protective glass on the Rokeby Venus oil painting worth an estimated £72.5million at the National Gallery today.
Two protesters appeared to strike the painting around 11am this morning using what the gallery has described as ’emergency rescue hammers’.
Met Police were called and the room was cleared of visitors. Officers have arrested the activists – identified by JSO as Hanan, 22, and Harrison, 20 – on suspicion of criminal damage.
‘The painting is now being removed from display so it can be examined by Conservators,’ the National Gallery told MailOnline.
JSO activists also today led a slow march through Whitehall that appeared to show demonstrators blocking the road. Officers are now making arrests under Section Seven of the Public Order Act.
Hanan and Harrison, the activists accused of vandalising the painting, have been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage.
The artwork, which was painted by Diego Velazquez in the 1600s and was on display in Room 30 of the National Gallery, was previously slashed by suffragette Mary Richardson in March 1914.
Following the stunt, Hanan said: ‘Women did not get the vote by voting; it is time for deeds not words. It it is time to Just Stop Oil.
‘As a kid I saw myself growing up to be an astronaut or a singer. I saw a future, however ridiculous it was. Now, those day-dreams have ended. The future we are heading for doesn’t allow space for them anymore.’
The protestors added: ‘Politics is failing us. It failed women in 1914 and it is failing us now.
‘New oil and gas will kill millions. If we love art, if we love life, if we love our families, we must Just Stop Oil.’
A series of JSO protests have taken place in recent days, including on Wednesday when more than 20 people were charged after blocking Earl’s Court Road.
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.