Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Environmentalists unfurl banner on Mount Rushmore

July 9, 2009, 7:53 am
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Environmentalists using park service rock anchors scaled Mount Rushmore on Wednesday and unfurled a banner along President Abraham Lincoln's face challenging America's leaders to stop global warming. 

Eleven people were charged with trespassing and the misdemeanor crime of climbing on Mount Rushmore National Monument, U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley said. They pleaded not guilty to all charges. 

The environmental group Greenpeace said in a statement that three of its members hung the banner on Mount Rushmore while other activists blocked access to the site. Greenpeace said the climbers, using existing rock anchors that the park service uses for occasional cleanings, went up the back of the monument, then rappelled down its face to unfurl a 65-by-35-foot banner reading, "America honors leaders not politicians: Stop Global Warming." 

Jackley said he could not confirm Greenpeace's account. 

Mount Rushmore Ranger Nav Singh said security warnings and tourists alerted officials when the banner was unrolled. The banner was removed about an hour after it was unfurled. 

"You can't create any security system that's 100 percent fail-safe. There's just not enough resources for that," Singh said. "Determined individuals that are properly equipped and willing to do damage to government property can do this sort of thing."

Twelve people were taken away in handcuffs and foot chains. The 12th person taken into custody was released without being charged, Jackley said. He would not say why. 

The National Park Service said in a statement that its staff and security detected the activists early and responded "within minutes." Visitors were not in danger, authorities said.