Second man arrested in connection with stolen Banksy artwork

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A second man has been arrested in connection with the apparent theft of a new Banksy artwork in London.

On Friday (December 22), Banksy unveiled a new anti-war artwork in Peckham, South London, featuring a ‘STOP’ traffic sign emblazoned with war aircraft. The artist confirmed ownership of the piece, but did not expand on its specific meaning.

Less than one hour after its installation, two anonymous men were seen taking it down with bolt cutters, in front of numerous onlookers.

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The Metropolitan Police later confirmed that a first man in his 20s had been arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage and has now been bailed, pending further inquiries.

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.”

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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.”

Last year, Banksy also created seven new murals in various locations across Ukraine, particularly areas which had been badly impacted by the Russian invasion.

Meanwhile, a newly unearthed interview from 2003 has emerged in which Banksy seemingly revealed his real name.

Banksy – who first had his name printed in a report from The Independent – confirmed his name for the first time, as revealed via a press released shared by the BBC.

The report asked the artist to confirm if his name was Robert Banks. “It’s Robbie,” Banksy clarified.

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