Climate Activists Arrested on Federal Conspiracy Charges for Damaging Degas Display at DC Museum

Image: @DecEmergency/Twitter


A pair of climate activists have been taken into custody following a federal indictment for conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and injury to a National Gallery of Art exhibit.

Timothy Martin of North Carolina, and Joanna Smith of New York, both 53, smeared black and red paint on the glass case and pedestal of Edgar Degas’ sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in April.


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Martin self-surrendered in Raleigh and Smith self-surrendered in DC on Friday.

The Department of Justice wrote in a press release, “According to the indictment, unsealed today, Martin and Smith smeared paint on the case and base of Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer, Age Fourteen, a priceless work of art which has drawn visitors for years to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Following the attack, a group called Declare Emergency claimed credit. Over the last year, in addition to this offense, Declare Emergency has blocked roadways around the Washington, D.C. area.”

“The indictment further alleges that Martin and Smith agreed, along with other currently uncharged co-conspirators, to enter the National Gallery of Art for the purpose of injuring the exhibit,” the DOJ continued. “Martin and Smith entered the National Gallery of Art armed with plastic water bottles filled with paint. Martin and Smith handed their phones to other conspirators and waited until patrons cleared the area in front of the Little Dancer. Martin and Smith proceeded to smear paint on the case and base of the exhibit, at times smacking the case with force.”

Before attacking the famed art piece, conspirators alerted the Washington Post, who sent two reporters to record and photograph the crime. Other “members of the conspiracy” also filmed and photographed the vandalism.

According to the DOJ, Smith and Martin caused approximately $2,400 in damage and caused the exhibit to be removed from public display for ten days so that it could be repaired.

The extremists are facing a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, specifically the FBI’s Art Crime Team, with assistance from the National Gallery of Art Police, and U.S. Park Police.

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