Climate Activist Arrested Over Damage to Civil War Memorial Honoring Black Soldiers: DOJ

Rob Young/Wikimedia Commons
Rob Young/Wikimedia Commons

A Utah man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly defacing a memorial commemorating a regiment of Black soldiers who fought in the Civil War, prosecutors said.

Jackson Green, 27, was taken into custody following an indictment charging him with property damage at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14. The Justice Department alleges that Green used red paint to write the words “Honor Them” on the wall next to the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial—a sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens honoring “Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first Civil War regiments of African Americans enlisted in the North,” according to the gallery.

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The DOJ said Green is a member of Declare Emergency, a group that describes itself as using “nonviolent civil resistance techniques to disrupt the status quo and demand that our government take meaningful action to address the climate emergency.” Green’s action—which allegedly caused over $700 worth of damages—was filmed by other members of the group and shared online, prosecutors say.

“To honor the sacrifices of the 54th regiment we must sacrifice ourselves today,” a caption on the group’s Instagram reads alongside a video appearing to show a man painting words on the wall next to the sculpture. “President Biden *needs* to declare a climate emergency.” Some people commenting on the clip expressed support while others condemned the choice of targeting a Black memorial.

In a Facebook post on the day of the alleged incident, Declare Emergency shared a statement from the supporter—whom the group identified as “Geor Green”—they said was responsible for the action.

“We should honor them by remembering them and what they did,” Green was quoted as saying of the regiment’s soldiers. “And second, we should honor them by carrying on their work. So, I say, ‘Joe Biden must declare a climate emergency’ in their honor because the great majority of the people who are being harmed by the climate emergency now and who will be harmed in the future are people who look like the soldiers of the Massachusetts 54th.”

Declare Emergency members have previously been charged in relation to incidents at the National Gallery of Art, according to the DOJ. In December, Joanna Smith pleaded guilty to a count of causing injury to a National Gallery of Art exhibit over the defacement of Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer, Age Fourteen earlier in the year. Her alleged “co-conspirator” in the stunt, Timothy Martin, is set to go to trial in August, prosecutors said.

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