Just Stop Oil activist compares himself to Martin Luther King in court

A climate activist has compared himself to Martin Luther King after he glued himself to a Vincent van Gogh painting.

Louis McKechnie, a Just Stop Oil protester, drew the comparison between him and the civil rights leader in court before he was sentenced for damaging the artwork's frame.

He and Emily Brocklebank, 24, another activist, were found guilty of causing just under £2,000 of criminal damage.

The pair superglued themselves to Van Gogh's 1889 work Peach Trees In Blossom at the Courtauld Gallery in London on 30 June.

McKechnie, 22, appeared in court via videolink from HMP Peterborough.

Asked if the protests had public support, he said Dr King was "the most hated man in America" in 1960.

Yet the civil rights movement "still worked", he said, and "people don't have to like what we're doing".

McKechnie, from Weymouth, Dorset, has previous convictions for climate protests.

In September he was given a six-week term for tying himself to the goalpost during a Premier League match between Everton and Newcastle in March, which caused the game to be postponed.

Just Stop Oil wants the government to stop issuing all new oil and gas licences.

'Artist's wishes'

In court on Tuesday, McKechnie suggested Van Gogh would have supported their protest because he valued nature.

"I believe that a completely logical person who is not a psychopath who owns a painting of this value by Vincent van Gogh would have respected the artist's wishes," he said.

"He said himself that the art of nature is not as valuable as nature itself."

Francesca Cociani, for the defence, asked Karen Serres, a curator at the gallery, whether the painting would go up in value because of the protest.

Ms Serres replied: "Absolutely not."

The incident was caught in CCTV footage, which shows the activists walking into the building after purchasing tickets for an exhibition.

They then took off their jackets to reveal orange Just Stop Oil T-shirts and attached themselves to the artwork.

'Permanent damage'

Sentencing the pair at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, District Judge Neeta Minhas said the 18th-century frame had been "permanently damaged".

McKechnie was jailed for three weeks and Brocklebank, from Yeadon, Leeds, received a 21-day sentence, suspended for six months.

She was also given a six-week curfew, during which she will be electronically monitored.

McKechnie was previously handed a six-week prison sentence in September over the Premier League match protest.

Just Stop Oil has stepped up its campaign of "civil unrest" in recent weeks, blocking the M25, smearing chocolate cake over waxworks of the King and spraying car showrooms with orange paint.

Another Van Gogh painting was targeted last month by two protesters who threw tomato soup over it.

Activists in other countries have also used artworks to bring attention to the climate crisis.

In Germany mashed potato was thrown over a Monet painting and in Austria activists splashed black oil on a Klimt.