Climate activists dump pink powder on case containing US Constitution

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Two climate change activists appeared in court on Thursday for throwing pink powder on glass cases displaying the US Constitution at the National Archives Museum in Washington, according to the US attorney’s office and court records.

The revered founding document, written on four sheets of parchment in 1787, was protected by its display encasement and not damaged, the National Archives said.

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Police arrested Donald Zepeda and Jackson Green on Wednesday afternoon for what the National Archives called an act of vandalism after they dispersed balloons filled with magenta pink tempera paint powder across the display, according to a court filing by a special agent in the archive’s inspector general’s office.

The museum’s rotunda was closed for cleaning on Thursday, costing the government $15,780.62, according to the filing in the DC Superior Court. It will remain closed on Friday.

Videos posted on social media showed the two men stood by the powder-dusted cases in the museum’s grand rotunda with their hands and clothes covered in the pink powder.

Paraphrasing the Constitution, they told onlookers they believed everyone on the planet had a right to clean air and a livable climate, and called on US President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency, shortly before they were detained by museum security staff.

They were arrested on charges of defacing and destruction of public property under Washington local law, according to the court filing, a crime with a maximum sentence of up to 180 days in prison. It was not clear if they would also face more serious federal charges of destruction of government property.

One of the two men told investigators they were part of the Declare Emergency campaign, which says it uses civil resistance techniques to try and force the US government to take emergency action on climate change.

The campaign did not immediately respond to questions on Thursday, but shared videos of the episode on social media, writing: “We the people will not stand for corporate greed and climate destruction.”

In recent years, climate activists around the world have targeted revered paintings and other cultural artifacts to draw attention to their cause.

In 2022, an activist threw cake at Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris. A few months later, two activists splashed the glass case protecting Vincent van Gogh’s Fifteen Sunflowers with tomato soup at London’s National Gallery, causing minor damage to the frame. Other activists have glued themselves to famous artworks.

The National Archives said the rotunda and the display of the Constitution would reopen soon.

“We take such vandalism very seriously and we will insist that the perpetrators be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Archivist of the United States Colleen Shogan said in a statement.

Neither of the men could immediately be reached for comment and it was not clear if they were represented by lawyers. They are due back in court on March 20th, and meanwhile have been ordered not to return to the National Archives.

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