Now, the Met have said that a second man in his 40s has been arrested and remains in custody.
The deputy Leader of Southwark Council, Jasmine Ali, said the artwork “should not have been removed”, adding: “We’d like it back so everyone in the community can enjoy Banksy’s brilliant work.”
While unconfirmed, many have interpreted the anti-war artwork to relate to the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, particularly given Banksy’s long history of creating art related to tensions in the area.
In 2005, he created numerous artworks on the Palestinian side of the West Bank Wall, which separated Palestine from Israel. Ten years later, he created street art in Gaza, which was widely considered some of his most provocative art to date. He added graffiti stencils to concrete rubble and, when he posted photographs of his work to his official website, he captioned his first stencil of a sad, crouching figure: “Bomb damage, Gaza City.”
In another caption, he wrote: “Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons – they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”
In 2015, he also released a mock tourism advert, where footage of destroyed buildings, rubble, military forces, and the separation wall from Israel was shown alongside text that read: “The locals like it so much they never leave (because they’re not allowed to)”. Another scene describes how they are “watched over by friendly neighbours” who “destroyed 18,000 homes”.
The video ended with a shot of the West Bank Wall and a spray-painted quote on it that says: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful – we don’t remain neutral.”