American Graffiti

It’s been a tough week for D.C.’s historic landmarks.

Beginning on Friday, a vandal armed with green paint splashed a path through the District, defacing monuments, statues, and churches along the way.

I was in San Francisco when I heard the news that paint had been thrown onto the statue at the Lincoln Memorial.

Pretty shocking stuff, but it turned out to not be an isolated incident. Over the weekend there was a steady drip of similar news from D.C.:

Green paint on a statue of Martin Luther and inside the historic Luther Place Memorial Church at Thomas Circle…

Green paint on a statue of Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian, outside the iconic Castle building…

And finally on Monday, green paint inside the National Cathedral, where a pipe organ and two chapels were splashed – one of which served as President Woodrow Wilson’s initial burial site.

The Lincoln Memorial undergoing cleaning to remove green paint.
The Lincoln Memorial undergoing cleaning to remove green paint.

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An April Fool at the National Gallery

Last week , there was another incident involving bare breasts and protests at a District museum – and it wasn’t a nurse-in at the Smithsonian.

Gauguin - Two Tahitian Women - National Gallery of Art
Two Tahitian Women, Paul Gauguin, 1899 (Courtesy of National Gallery of Art)

On April 1st, a woman attacked a famous painting by Paul Gauguin – “Two Tahitian Women” – on display at the National Gallery of Art.

It was no April Fool’s prank – more like  a crazed rant. The woman allegedly tried to pull the painting off the wall, shouting “This is evil.”

She was still pounding on the plexiglas protecting the painting when she was tackled by a tourist and detained by security.

Her reasoning, released in court documents this week:

“I feel that Gauguin is evil. He has nudity and is bad for the children…I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.”

Okay, nothing reasonable there.

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Nurse-In at the Hirshhorn

Dozens of women exposed their breasts in the halls of the Smithsonian’s contemporary art museum, the Hirshhorn, this past Saturday.

It wasn’t some sort of avant-garde artistic statement – it was a modern-day civic protest against the idea that breastfeeding in public could be considered indecent.

Nurse-In at the Hirshhorn
A mother breastfeeds her baby during a quiet moment in front of an Edward Hopper painting.

It all started on January 30th, when a mom from Rockville, Maryland was nursing her infant daughter while sitting on a bench in the Hirshhorn. She was told by a museum security guard that she couldn’t breastfeed in public, and was instructed to move to the ladies’ room.

After not finding a place to sit in the restroom, and being told to stop breastfeeding by yet another security guard, she and her family ultimately gave up on their day at the museum and went home.

But like any good Washingtonian, she decided to go on the Internet and find out her rights.

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The District’s Rosa Parks

An African-American woman tries to sit in a seat on public transportation implicitly reserved for whites only. She refuses to get up when ordered to move, and is forcibly evicted by the police.

Her case draws national attention, and eventually causes the Supreme Court to confront the issue of racial segregation.

Rosa Parks, by Marshall D. Rumbaugh, 1983
Rosa Parks by Marshall D. Rumbaugh at The National Portrait Gallery

If you’re thinking of Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama, you’re about a hundred years too late.

I’m talking about Kate Brown, a resident of the District, who in 1868 refused to leave the car reserved for white ladies in a train bound for Washington.

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In the District, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Whether you were stuck in downtown traffic yesterday morning – or had a birds-eye view from your office – you couldn’t help but notice it.

An ominous black plume of smoke rising from the vicinity of the National Mall, which soon towered over even the Washington Monument.

Brian Levey Fire Photo - Washington Post
(Photo: Courtesy of Brian Levey, Washington Post)

A terrorist attack? A rogue firecracker from yesterday’s Chinatown parade? A Superbowl barbecue gone awry?

The culprit was actually a small fire on the grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

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