President Obama got his face on Mount Rushmore for a few minutes this morning.
Eleven rock climbers from Greenpeace evaded security at Mount Rushmore National Memorial and hung the 65-foot by 35-foot banner, which billowed for a few minutes next to Abraham Lincoln’s carved stone face.
The banner featured an unfinished portrait of Obama with the message, "America honors leaders not politicians: Stop Global Warming.”
Unveiled around 10:30 a.m., the banner came down after a few minutes. But not before Greenpeace photographed the banner and broadcast video of the event live online.
Authorities were quickly alerted to intrusion, arrested a dozen activists, and more arrests may follow, said Nav Singh, memorial spokesman.
“When you have individuals who are determined, who ware equipped, who are organized, who are willing to do damage to government systems, there’s not many systems that are fail-safe to that,” he said.
The 12 arrested activists got their first appearance before a Federal judge in Rapid City at 2 p.m. said U.S. attorney Marty Jackley, in a written statement.
The activists climbed to the top of Mount Rushmore, which is 5,725 feet tall, using existing anchors placed by the National Park Service for periodic cleanings, according to Greenpeace.
Three of the climbers rappelled down, hanging the 2,300-square-foot banner as they descended, according to the organization. The climbers were all highly trained in rock and industrial climbing, according to the organization.
Security sensors alerted authorities to the intrusion, and park security workers followed it response procedures to find and apprehend the activists, said Singh, the memorial spokesman.
“All of our security measures did exactly what they were designed to do to alert us as this was happening,” he said.
At least two of the climbers used Twitter to report their location on the mountain to the world. Matt Leonard, one of the climbers, didn’t post again on his Twitter account after announcing his location through a cell phone. Michael Gaworecki, a San-Francisco-based Web editor for Greenpeace USA, told the Journal via Twitter that Leonard had been taken into custody.
Singh said the operation to find the activists involved in the banner unveiling is still in progress. Authorities just found another two activists atop the mountain, bringing the total of arrests to 12.
“We brought them down as well,” he said. “So this is ongoing.”
Singh said the memorial would host a press conference Friday at 10 a.m. to discuss the incident.
The demonstration comes as President Obama meets other G8 leaders in L'Aquila, Italy today to discuss the global warming crisis in the lead-up to UN climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen this December. The protest was one of several Greenpeace staged around the world related to the G8 meeting.
"This monument celebrates leaders who rose to the great challenges of our past. Global warming is the greatest crisis humankind has ever faced and it is the defining test of leadership for this generation. It's an open question whether President Obama will pass that test," said Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett, in a written statement.
This is like the ultimate combination of things that Western South Dakotans hate: liberals, environmentalists, Obama and the defacing of the state's greatest tourist attraction. The LULz I'm going to get from this for the next two weeks are going to be awesome.
That being said, I don't know how they managed to climb the mountain today. It was windy as hell in Rapid City this morning, and I don't even want to imagine what it was like out there.