Third climate protestor jailed in Girl with a Pearl Earring incident
The third suspect in the climate protest in the Mauritshuis involving the iconic Vermeer painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was convicted for his involvement on Friday afternoon. The police judge in The Hague sentenced the man, David S. from Dendermonde, Belgium to two months in prison, of which one month is suspended pending adherence to conditions.
The 45-year-old dumped what he said was a can of fake red soup over activist Wouter M. last Thursday. That happened after M. glued his head to the glass plate covering the painting. S. glued his left hand to the paneling around the masterpiece's frame. S. then delivered a speech about climate change while another suspect shot video of the demonstration.
The artwork was not damaged, but there was damage to the frame and the paneling around it, the museum previously said. The judge found the damages proven and categorized the action targeting precious aspects of cultural heritage as open violence, even if it just involves tagging and smearing, the court explained. The court ruled that the activists' message and motivation was not clear to the Mauritshuis visitors. "The relationship between national heritage and the climate debate is not self-evident."
The photo crossed a boundary, the judge said. "The shock caused by the action cannot be considered peaceful. The canvas itself was not damaged, but parts of the painting are, such as the glass plate and the backing panel."
After the hearing, the suspect's attorney, Willem Jebbink, announced that he would lodge an appeal and will also ask the court to suspend the detention as soon as possible pending the appeal. In his view, the action falls under the freedom of demonstration. M. has filed for an appeal.
"I do regret it because I crossed a line with that. That's not who I really am," said S., when he expressed remorse during the criminal proceedings. "I wanted to improve something with it. I hope I get the chance to make amends for what I have done," he continued.
"I am convinced of the seriousness of the climate crisis. I intended to put the climate crisis in the social debate with this." He compared the beauty of Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece with the beauty of the planet. I made sure that the fake soup wasn't harmful. It was water and a natural dye, to make sure we wouldn't do any damage," S. stated. He called the moment, "an act of political protest."
"The actions of the suspects of sticking [themselves] to a masterpiece and smearing the painting with a red substance have nothing to do with the right to demonstrate. The right to demonstrate ends where open violence in a museum begins," the prosecutor said.
The demonstration caused an extensive unrest in society about the safety of cultural heritage, the prosecutor said. "It could also have gone terribly wrong. We are talking about centuries-old art. The suspects have taken a huge risk."
"My client now fears for his job," said Jebbink, during the hearing and before the conviction was announced. "He is now saying, 'Once, but never again.' He will no longer be involved in actions of this caliber." Jebbink said the demonstration was peaceful, and was purely going for shock value.
The prison sentence imposed on S. was equivalent to the sentence recommendation from the public prosecutor, and to the sentences imposed on the two co-defendants during a rapid procedure on Wednesday, including M.
Reporting by ANP