'Not the way to do it' - Public frustration over pink paint protests

Burning Pink protest

The damage to County Hall - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Council officials and members of the public have criticised the actions of an anti-political protest group in Norwich yesterday. 

Two women were arrested after paint was thrown at Norwich City Hall and County Hall on Martineau Lane yesterday afternoon. 

It was part of a nationwide action by Burning Pink in response to perceived inaction from local authorities on their climate and ecological emergency declaration.

A letter dated January 18, 2021, was delivered to councils nationwide as Burning Pink stated that politicians have engaged in “a treasonous betrayal of the British people by refusing to tell them the truth and refusing to protect our communities and nation”. 

City Hall

City Hall remains stained after specialists cleaned up the majority of the paint - Credit: Archant

Officers attended County Hall around 3.15pm after Burning Pink had thrown paint inside the main foyer, covering windows and floors. 

Greg Peck, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for commercial services and asset management, said: “Pink paint has been used to damage the main entrance doors to County Hall.

"Wanton vandalism to a public building is not an acceptable way to protest. We understand arrests have been made and we will be giving the police our full support.”

Norwich City Council has released a statement thanking the specialists who swiftly responded to calls to attend City Hall and remove the worst of the pink paint from the front entrance. 

The statement added: "The initial clean has delivered excellent results, with much of the visible paint having been cleaned away from the two large bronze doors which depict the history, trade and industry of the city.

Burning Pink

Two people from Burning Pink were arrested for this, the group has said - Credit: Burning Pink

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"Unfortunately, some of the pink paint has inevitably seeped into the surrounding stonework which means it will need additional and careful restoration work from expert stonemasons to try and restore it to its former glory. This work will be carried out as soon as possible." 

The total cost of the repair work is not known at this stage.

Members of the public were overwhelmingly against the manner of the protest.

Roan Dyson, who was out walking his dogs, said: "There needs to be more consideration to raise awareness of climate change.

"I wonder what are the consequences around the carbon footprint when people take direct action. It could be counterproductive. They certainly picked a prominent place but I wonder how constructive that was." 

Roan Dyson

Roan Dyson - Credit: Archant

Sidharth Sharma took a break from feeding the pigeons to say he was not aware of what the council has done to tackle global warming.

He added: "Climate change is a massive thing these days and it's a very important topic, so I am one foot on this side and one on the other with it.

"In some countries, this kind of action is necessary because there is lots of corruption and people do not listen, but I am not so sure if this is the case in this country." 

Sidharth Sharma ou

Sidharth Sharma opposite Norwich City Hall this afternoon - Credit: Archant

And Nas Madhi added: "It's one way of getting people's attention and I think it is effective in doing that. But I am not sure if it actually changes anything in itself." 

Another man passing by, who did not wish to be named, said he completely understands the frustration and anger towards the government and local authorities over climate decisions.

But he fears throwing paint may alienate members of the public who are not already concerned with environmental issues, so the move could backfire. 

An anonymous woman said: "This is not the way to do it. They have to be calm, collected and informative to gain respect. This just costs money and time to clean." 

Others suggested protests are generally controversial by nature to turn people's heads towards the issue. 

Andrew Smith commented: "I suppose it gets it in the news. At the end of the day a protest will always upset someone, that is the whole point of it.

"I just thought there was no identifiable message to this and they would be better sticking to marches. It just looks like vandalism for the sheer hell of it and I think that does detract from the message. But I support the aim in principle." 

Both women who were arrested currently remain in police custody.