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National Archives Rotunda closes after climate activists dump red powder on US Constitution

One of the men responsible for the incident was apparently arrested the previous day blocking traffic in another climate protest.

Published: February 15, 2024 8:12am

The National Archives Rotunda in Washington, D.C., remains closed Thursday after climate activists dumped red powder on the case protecting the U.S. Constitution on Wednesday afternoon. 

No damage was done to the actual document of the Constitution, which is more than 230 years old, the National Archives said.

Those responsible for the powder were "immediately detained" and conservators were onsite minutes later to evaluate damage to the Rotunda, according to officials. The Rotunda closed after the incident around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and it will remain closed Thursday for cleaning.

"The National Archives Rotunda is the sanctuary for our nation’s founding documents," U.S. Archivist Colleen Shogan said. "They are here for all Americans to view and understand the principles of our nation. We take such vandalism very seriously and we will insist that the perpetrators be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Video taken shortly after the incident shows two men covered in powder, with more powder surrounding them and the exhibits in the Rotunda.

"This country is founded on the conditions that all men are created, er, equally, and endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," one of the men said. "We are calling for all people to have these rights, not just wealthy white men. We all deserve clean air, water, food and a livable climate." 

Documentarian Ford Fischer identified one of the men as Donald, whom he said was also arrested Tuesday for blocking traffic in another climate protest. 

The other man, Fischer said, was involved in another act of vandalism at the National Gallery of Art in November. 

The group Declare Emergency took responsibility for the men's actions. 

"We don’t want the end of civilization but that’s the path we’re currently on. Declare Emergency’s nonviolent civil disobedience is love in action everyday, not just on Valentine’s Day," the group said on X, formerly Twitter, in response to a video of the powder incident. 

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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