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Protesters hurl soup at the ‘Mona Lisa’ in Paris

By Stephanie Halasz, Chris Liakos and Oscar Holland, CNN

(CNN) — Protesters hurled soup at the “Mona Lisa” painting in Paris on Sunday, but it was protected from damage by its glass casing.

The environmental group Riposte Alimentaire — which roughly translates to “Food Response” — said two protesters involved with its campaign were behind the vandalism.

A video of the incident shows the demonstrators throwing orange-colored soup from bottles before ducking beneath a protective barrier to address onlookers. “What is more important: art or the right to a healthy and sustainable diet?” one is heard asking.

Staff members at the Louvre are then seen moving black screens between visitors and the protesters.

The museum evacuated the “Salle des Etats” room, which houses the “Mona Lisa,” though it has since reopened.

“Two activists from the environmental movement ‘Riposte Alimentaire’ sprayed pumpkin soup on the armoured glass protecting the Mona Lisa, this Sunday, January 28, 2024, around 10am (4am ET),” a statement from the museum said. “The Louvre’s security staff immediately intervened.”

The museum said it was lodging a complaint.

In a series of social media posts about the incident, Riposte Alimentaire said it wanted to draw attention to unsustainable food production and hunger in France, calling for “the integration of food into the general social security system.”

According to its website, Riposte Alimentaire is part of the A22 Network, a collection of activist groups — including Just Stop Oil, which orchestrated a similar attack on Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in London in 2022 — known for disruptive climate protests.

The incident comes amid widespread demonstrations by French farmers about pay, competition and government regulations.

Posting to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, French Culture Minister Rachida Dati condemned the Louvre protest. “The Mona Lisa, like our heritage, belongs to future generations,” she wrote. “No cause can justify it being targeted!”

“I extend all my support to the staff of @museeLouvre,” added Dati, who was appointed as Culture Minister by France’s new Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, earlier this month.

Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece the “Mona Lisa” hangs in the Louvre museum and is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Millions of visitors each year line up to see, photograph or pose with the small artwork, which is just over 2.5 feet tall and under 2 feet wide.

Painted in the early 16th century, the enigmatic portrait is no stranger to both vandalism and thievery.

It was stolen in 1911 by a Louvre employee, raising its international profile, and the bottom of the canvas suffered an acid attack in the 1950s, leading the museum to beef up protective measures surrounding the work, including bulletproof glass.

In 2009, a woman angrily threw a ceramic cup at the painting, breaking the cup but leaving the painting unharmed.

Then in 2022, a visitor smeared frosting all over the Renaissance-era painting’s protective glass.

CNN’s Jacqui Palumbo contributed to this report.

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