A Pair of Climate Activists in Scotland Smashed and Spray-Painted a Glass Case Housing ‘Braveheart’ Knight William Wallace’s Sword

The campaigners wrote 'This Is Rigged' on the broken glass.

Climate activists from This Is Rigged targeting the case holding the Wallace sword at the National Wallace Monument. Photo: @thisis.rigged on Instagram.

Two activists from an environmental group smashed and vandalized a glass case housing the sword of Scottish knight William Wallace, the hero whose legend inspired the 1995 film Braveheart, at a museum in Stirling, Scotland.

On March 2 around 11:30 a.m., Alexander Cloudley, a food bank coordinator, and Katrielle Chan, a student, entered the National Wallace Monument’s Hall of Arms, and struck the case containing the Wallace sword with mallets, chisels, and two rocks. They then spray-painted the broken glass with the words “This Is Rigged,” the name of their climate activist group.

According to the Stirling Council, which oversees the National Wallace Monument, the sword is currently being assessed for damage. The monument also closed temporarily, but has since reopened.

Cloudley and Chan, both from Glasgow, were arrested on site and charged with vandalism. They have pleaded not guilty. In a statement, Police Scotland said that “inquiries are ongoing.”

This Is Rigged formed in 2022 to protest the Scottish government’s new investments in fossil fuels, demanding that leadership “vocally oppose all new fossil fuel projects in Scotland and create a clear transition plan for oil workers.” Since January 2023, the group has been staging civil resistance protests at the Scottish Parliament’s weekly questions sessions.

In an Instagram post, the group said its targeting of the two-handed sword, believed to have been wielded by Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, is tied to the weapon’s symbolic value. “Six hundred years before William Wallace defended our freedom with this very sword,” it wrote. “Now it is time for us to stand up for ourselves.”

The rock used by This Is Rigged in their action at the National Wallace Monument. Photo: @thisis.rigged on Instagram.

The rock used by This Is Rigged in their action at the National Wallace Monument. Photo: @thisis.rigged on Instagram.

Their action also references the suffragettes—in particular British painter Ethel Moorhead, who, in 1912, attacked the case holding the Wallace sword with a stone to demand the right to vote for women. One of the rocks used by This Is Rigged campaigners in last week’s action was inscribed with a message that echoed the note Moorhead wrapped her stone in.

The This Is Rigged rock read in part: “We must once again fight for what is right, no new fossil fuels and a fair transition now.”

This latest action follows the spate of protests late last year that saw environmental groups, most prominently Just Stop Oil, attacking works of art in museums to raise awareness about the climate emergency. 

In a joint statement released in November 2022, 92 museum leaders, while holding that cultural institutions should remain sites for “social discourse,” decried such protests as “risky endangerment.” They added: “The activists responsible for them severely underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects, which must be preserved as part of our world cultural heritage.”

 

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