For all the millions of visitors who trek through Washington each year, the national capital suffers remarkably few incidents of vandalism. Perhaps it’s because visitors realize that the various statues and memorials are in a very real sense “their” monuments.
Even defacement to make a political statement is rare.
The infrequency likely explains the city’s sense of outrage when late last Thursday or early Friday someone splashed green paint on the giant statue of Abraham Lincoln in his memorial. This is as close as it gets to civic sacrilege in the capital.
Monday a vandal struck the great gothic National Cathedral, splashing green paint on the organ in the Bethlehem Chapel and similarly marking the floor, pews and a mural of the Children’s Chapel, where fixtures are scaled to fit a 6-year-old child.
Also Monday, green paint was found on the statue of Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and on a statue of Martin Luther just outside the Luther Place Memorial Church. Church members at a post-service morning coffee found green paint mixed with feces splashed in the choir loft.
Police quickly arrested a suspect in the attack on the cathedral, a woman police described as homeless, speaking little or no English and probably having “mental health issues.”
The damage is quickly being repaired and should soon be unnoticeable to the average tourist. The real damage would be if the authorities, in an overabundance of caution, further tightened up access and security in a city that is still, for the most part, delightfully free and open.
Dale McFeatters writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.