Breaking: Greenpeace Activists Scale and Occupy Mt. Rushmore

[Update: 12 Greenpeace activists were arrested shortly after unfurling the banner. Possible charges range from trespass to destruction of government property. ]

At approximately 10:30 AM Mountain Time, Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner at one of America’s most iconic landmarks with a message that reads, “America honors leaders not politicians: Stop Global Warming.” The banner, measuring sixty-five feet by thirty-five feet, features an unfinished portrait of President Obama.


The demonstration comes as President Obama meets other G8 leaders in L’Aquila, Italy today to discuss the global warming crisis in the lead-up to UN climate treaty talks in Copenhagen this December.

High winds made the unfurling of the banner especially difficult, but climbers were able to secure the banner despite the winds and pressure from fast-approaching National Park Police climbers. In a piece of twenty-first century political theater, Greenpeace also tweeted from atop the famous rock face and streamed the live video feed of the action at their website, providing color and play-by-play analysis from their communications team in D.C. and activists on the ground.

To bring attention the issue, 11 activists completed a challenging climb to the top of Mount Rushmore, and three rappelled down, hanging the nearly 2300-square-foot banner as they descended.

It was not entirely clear how the activists so easily evaded the security perimeter in the early morning hours on Wednesday, but according to Greenpeace, the highly-trained climbers took special care not to damage the monument, using existing anchors placed by the National Park Service for periodic cleanings.

“When you have individuals who are determined, who are equipped, who are organized, who are willing to do damage to government property, there’s not many systems that are fail-safe to that,” Nav Sing, spokesman for the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial told the Rapid City Journal.

The demonstration in South Dakota follows a series of protests in Italy this morning where other Greenpeace activists hung banners on smokestacks of the dirtiest coal-fired power plant in Italy, calling attention to the collective failure of leadership on global warming at the G8.

“This monument celebrates leaders who rose to the great challenges of our past,” said Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett. “Global warming is the greatest crisis humankind has ever faced and it is the defining test of leadership for this generation. It’s an open question whether President Obama will pass that test.”

“While President Obama’s speeches on global warming have been inspiring,” added Muffett, “we’ve seen a growing gap between the president’s words and his actions.”

Specifically, Greenpeace is calling on President Obama to:

• Strive to keep global temperatures as far below a 2 degrees Celsius increase as possible, compared to pre-industrial levels to avert catastrophic climate change;

• Set a goal of peaking global emissions by 2015 and be as close to zero as possible by 2050, compared to 1990 levels;

• Cut emissions in the U.S. by 25-40 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels;

• Join and encourage other members of the G8 to establish a funding mechanism that provides $106 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to global warming impacts that are now unavoidable and halt tropical deforestation.


Follow Tim Hurst on twitter

12 thoughts on “Breaking: Greenpeace Activists Scale and Occupy Mt. Rushmore”

  1. HenryButtal,

    Churches have political marches and events all the time, if they do an illegal action they should be fined, but doing fundraising, and publicity should have NOTHING to do with their status, almost every not-for-profit org does the same thing.

    By the carbon footprint comment are you suggesting that every environmental group is being hypocritical if they try to further their goals while using gasoline? That’s absurd, it’s impossible to function in the current world without doing that and there is no way to convince people to change without moving people around, which currently requires gasoline.

    DO you even know what terrorism means? Terrorism is the attempt to terrorize. Putting a banner on a monument is NOT terrorism in any sense of the word.

  2. Greenpeace did push the limits of free speech.
    Getting attention like this is priceless.
    Perhaps we should earmark that spot for President Obama’s sculpture. Clean Energy is important.
    Waiting & procrastinating on Global Warming could be a tremendously costlier issue. The end result skulls.


    These Greenpeacers should al go to Jail for a long time after they spend hundreds of hours picking up trash in the hot South Dakota sun while dressed in a parka and snow pants.

  4. Don’t miss the facts here, no matter the deed, which are:
    – Greenpeace is an NGO with not-for-profit tax status in the U.S. Yet they organized and funded this event, an illegal action under Federal and State law. An Arabic organization would have, at a minimum, had its tax status revoked. Greenpeace had a publicity team there, and is using shots taken to help fund raising activities and media promotion (like here)
    – A team of at least 12+ people from around the U.S. drove or flew to SD to put a 2400 sq foot banner up; did they mention their carbon footprint to do this?
    – Finally, Greenpeace, a repeat offender, did something similar to this in 1987. Apparently Greenpeace thinks Mt. Rushmore is their private advertising canvas. No other non-profit group has done that. This was funded eco-terrorism, and their not for profit status should be revoked.

  5. hey pyrillix,
    plants and animals thrived at 1500 to 4500 ppm thru 95% of the earth’s history? Plants and animals for 5.7 billion years? Really?
    And for what percentage of that time have humans been around? 0.002 percent – coincidence? Nah, probably not. So let’s take a chance on the human race, and everything else that can’t evolve in about 50 years eh? Let’s just wait around and see what happens.

  6. Someone explain to me how the earth with co2 levels of 1500 to 4500 ppm thru 95% of its history, (when things were lush and plants and animals thrived), is in trouble with only 350 ppm in todays climate? Me? Bring on global warming and the way it used to be!!!

  7. “While President Obama’s speeches on global warming have been inspiring, we’ve seen a growing gap between the president’s words and his actions.” Greenpeace, you’re lucky his actions are lagging behind, because in his headlong quest for power and absolute control over our nation’s citizens through a burgeoning and tyranical federal government bureaucracy, your activist climbers might just simply be picked off the rocks by sharpshooters next time! As for the punishment for these folks violating NPS regulations, I think a couple hundred hours picking up trash along the Mt. Rushmore access roads would not only be appropriate but would also provide a fitting example of environmental stewardship.

  8. Since this is a National Park, I think Greenpeace should be fined for doing this.
    It does not matter how careful they claim to have been. It was recently restored at a cost to whom – taxpayers.

  9. So much money has been spent to restore and preserve Mt. Rushmore that I’d hate to see the actions of 11 people plus the police undo what’s been done. The rock surfaces have been showing wear and damage more and more in recent years and they’re worried that chunks will start falling off. Let’s hope everything will be okay.

  10. Not sure how I feel about this, I think it’s a great thing to draw attention to. Although the article states that the climbers took special notice to not damage the monument, it just feels weird to me. Climbing up a historic monument no matter how careful you are seems a little disrespectful to me.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top