National Archives Close After Protestors Throw Red Powder On U.S. Constitution

The agency is insisting that the protestors be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Much of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., temporarily closed to the public Wednesday after two environmental justice protestors doused the case holding U.S. Constitution in red powder, the records-keeping agency said.

The two men were immediately arrested, and no damage was done to the document, which is protected by a glass case, the National Archives said. The agency is calling for the men to face legal repercussions.

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

The agency closed off the rotunda and galleries shortly after the 2:30 incident so that conservators could conduct “a thorough evaluation of the damage” and staff could clean the area. The rotunda will be closed through Friday.

Video of the incident showed the two men, who were also covered in the red powder, speaking out about climate change and environmental inequalities.

“We’re calling for all people to have all these rights, not just wealthy white men. We all deserve clean air, water, food,” one demonstrator said, adding that the U.S. needs to stop “subsidizing fossil fuels and start moving toward real climate solutions.”

The other can be heard saying: “President Biden, please declare a climate emergency.”

D.C. Metro Police identified the suspects to NBC News as 35-year-old Donald Zepeda and 27-year-old Jackson Green.

In a follow-up statement Thursday, the National Archives called the incident “deplorable” and said that it has “established a task force to conduct an examination of the incident and our security protocols, systems, and personnel to identify lessons learned and implement changes swiftly.”

The protest is reminiscent of the 2022 incident in which climate protestors threw tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s iconic “Sunflowers” painting in London’s National Gallery, then glued their hands to the wall.

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