By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 8, 2009 4:32 PM
Greenpeace activists draped an enormous banner next to the carved stone faces of Mount Rushmore today, calling for more-aggressive action to fight climate change.
The banner showed President Obama's face -- Greenpeace said it was an unfinished portrait, implying that Obama's legacy was in question -- and the words "America honors leaders not politicians: Stop Global Warming."
A trio of climbers unfurled it about 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, over a rock face next to the image of Abraham Lincoln on the far right side of the South Dakota landmark.
Less than two hours later, a Greenpeace spokesman said, all three, plus eight other Greenpeace activists at the site, had been taken into custody by park authorities.
Patty Rooney, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, confirmed that there had been arrests. Rooney said prosecutors had not yet decided what charges the activists would face.
Rooney said that Park Service workers had not been able to take down the banner or assess any damage to the 67-year-old monument because high winds were making those tasks difficult. She said that the first task for park workers would be "getting our people safely up there and getting them [the Greenpeace activists] safely down."
The demonstration at Mount Rushmore was one of several staged today by Greenpeace seeking to influence world leaders at the Group of Eight summit in L'Aquila, Italy.
That meeting, along with another tomorrow that will include a wider circle of economic powerhouse nations, is supposed to help create a global strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But disagreements over how deeply to cut -- and how many cuts there should be -- have held up progress.
Also today, Greenpeace said its activists were holding demonstrations in Italy at four coal-fired power plants, a kind that produces particularly high emissions. Images on Greenpeace's Web site showed a demonstrator apparently using rock-climbing gear to hang off machinery at a plant near Venice, with a banner reading "Green Jobs."
At Mount Rushmore, Greenpeace spokesman Michael Crocker said the activists had hiked to a ridge just above the six-story-tall heads. Then, he said, three of them rappelled over the side with the banner, two of them spending time suspended on Lincoln's forehead.
He said the climbers were careful not to damage the monument, using anchors installed by the Park Service for use in cleaning.
A video showed strong winds billowing the banner like a sail, forcing the climbers to spend several minutes getting it in place.
"There are times when you have to break the law to do what's right," Crocker said. He said Greenpeace believes that a House-approved bill to cut greenhouse gases 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 was not ambitious enough, and that the group wants Obama to push for something stronger.