On September 20, 2022, a man was arrested in Washington DC for allegedly vandalizing the Washington Monument with anti-government graffiti.
In photos from the scene, an offensive message can be seen painted across the walls of the monument, along with a large splash of red paint.
The graffiti read:
"Have you been f*cked by this? Government says tough sh*t."
Authorities temporarily closed off the monument and began an investigation probing the defacement. CBS reported that the suspected vandal was taken into police custody around 7:30 pm. Authorities have neither released the name of the suspect, nor the charges against him.
US Park Police reported that National Park Service (NPS) conservators are scheduled to begin the restorative process on the structure soon.
Vandalism and political violence in Washington
The defacement of the monument is the latest in a string of ideologically driven vandalism in the country, which has seen a rise in protests and political clashes over the last few years.
The volatile political atmosphere reared its head in 2020, when the death of George Floyd sparked protests across the US. In June 2020, Washington saw several cases in which politically driven activists vandalized numerous monuments, including the WW2 memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, as well as statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Casimir Pulaski. No arrests were made.
After the cases of vandalism. the NPS issued a statement urging citizens to protest peacefully. The statement read:
“In the wake of last night’s demonstrations, there are numerous instances of vandalism to sites around the National Mall. For generations the Mall has been our nation’s premier civic gathering space for non-violent demonstrations, and we ask individuals to carry on that tradition."
On June 22, 2020, rioters allegedly attempted to vandalize an 1852 bronze statue of Andrew Jackson. The incident led to the arrests of four suspects, who were charged with destruction of federal property.
The most shocking case of violence and vandalism in recent Washington history, however, was the January 6 Capitol Hill riot, when a mob of Trump supporters reportedly attacked the Capitol building.
Forbes reported that in the wake of the riot, there were five deaths and over $2.73 million worth of property damage. In addition to this, over 130 people were injured and at least four police officers committed suicide soon after the attacks.
The capitol riot was emblematic of rising political violence and bipartisanship in the nation, setting a precedent for incidents such as the recent defacement of the Washington Monument.
In an article by the Carnegie Endowment, it was reported that the number of political activists who condone ideologically driven violence and vandalism rose by 56% in 2021.