A professor at the University of Alabama Birmingham used Twitter to tell protesters how to successfully pull down monuments, as rioters vandalized the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial and other iconic sites in the nation’s capital over the weekend.
Sarah Parcak, an Egyptologist who specializes in ancient architecture, says she is an expert on obelisks, the shape of the Washington Monument. She noted obelisks “might be masquerading as a racist monument.”
The District of Columbia was set ablaze, and stores were looted and destroyed, after a series of protests turned destructive following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed last week by a white Minneapolis police officer. The officer, who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, has been charged with murder, but protesters are demanding more in response for the killing.
Ms. Parcak began coaching rioters about how to tear down monuments as networks covered the unrest in Washington on Sunday night.
“PSA for ANYONE who might be interested in how to pull down an obelisk* safely from an Egyptologist who never ever in a million years thought this advice might come in handy,” Ms. Parcak tweeted.
She went on to fire off more than a dozen tweets demonstrating how protesters could topple obelisks, such as the Washington Monument.
“Just keep pulling till there’s good rocking, there will be more and more and more tilting, you have to wait more for the obelisk to rock back and time it to pull when it’s coming to you. Don’t worry you’re close!” she tweeted.
In another tweet, she drew a diagram.
After her series of instructions, Ms. Parcak tweeted: “ALSO PLEASE DO NOT PULL DOWN WASHINGTON MONUMENT.”
Some of the nation’s most iconic monuments were defaced as rioters spread to the National Mall, leaving a trail of vandalism in their wake.
Though the Washington Monument was not toppled, photos posted Saturday by the National Park Service showed spray-painted messages on the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the statue of Gen. Casimir Pulaski. A fire was set in the basement of the historic St. John’s Church, across the street from Lafayette Park, where every president has worshipped.
“In the wake of last night’s demonstrations, there are numerous instances of vandalism to sites around the National Mall,” the park service’s post said. “For generations, the Mall has been our nation’s premier civic gathering space for non-violent demonstrations, and we ask individuals to carry on that tradition.”
The U.S. Park Police did not respond to a request for comment about plans for the coming nights to protect the memorials.
On Monday morning, people were out power washing and scrubbing the graffiti left by the activists.
The messages included, “Yall not tired yet?” and “Do Black Vets Count?” as well as profanities.
An Associated Press photo taken near the Washington Monument showed the spray-painted slogan, “No More Black Bodies.”
Monuments in Washington weren’t the only ones targeted by rioters.
Confederate memorials were also defaced in several Southern states, where they have been a major focus of civil rights groups pushing for their removal from public places, saying they symbolize racism during the Civil War era.
Zachary Borenstein, an Ole Miss graduate, was arrested around 4:45 p.m. Saturday for allegedly defacing the Confederate memorial on campus in Oxford.
Graffiti was also tagged on statutes commemorating Robert E. Lee among other confederate leaders in Richmond.
Several Twitter users believed Ms. Parcak was instructing them on how to destroy Confederate monuments.
“There might be one just like this in downtown Birmingham! What a coincidence. Can someone please show this thread to the folks there,” she tweeted.
Local reports noted the Confederate statue memorializing Charles Linn, captain of the Confederate Navy, in Birmingham was, in fact, torn down using ropes as Ms. Parcak suggested in her tweets.
Twitter users were surprised by the instructions, with one saying, “I hope you’re arrested,” and another user saying, “I hope you lose your job.”
On Monday, Ms. Parcak apologized for not speaking out sooner on injustices facing black Americans.
“As much as I love archaeology and Egyptology, we have to acknowledge - esp now - their deeply racist, colonialist, and nationalist roots - and ongoing practices. It is a field that has caused and continues to cause enormous harm (see DNA research) We all can do so much better,” she tweeted.
The University of Alabama Birmingham would not comment on whether Ms. Parcak would keep her teaching position.
“These are not the opinions of the university. Our 45,000+ students, faculty and staff often use social media to express thoughts that do not necessarily reflect the voice of the university. If a public comment by a member of the campus community needs to be addressed by Student Affairs or Human Resources, it would be. However, personnel and student conduct matters are addressed privately between the individual and the institution,” said Tyler Greer, the public relations director at the university.
• James Varney contributed to this report.