Two climate activists have been charged with a felony after they threw red powder onto the display case that holds the United States Constitution.

Last month, during their protest at the National Archives, the activists poured the powder over the display and were then arrested. The Justice Department has now announced the charges against them.

District Court Releases Statement

According to a newly unsealed indictment in the District Court, two people are being charged with felonies for the incident of pouring red powder on the case of the U.S. Constitution at the National Archives.

Source: Wikimedia/Mbell1975

The individuals responsible for these actions are Donald Zepeda, 35, and Jackson Green, aged 27. They are officially charged with felony destruction of government property. The Department of Justice has stated that if the damages amount to more than $100, the defendants could face fines of up to $250,000. Additionally, they may be sentenced to ten years in prison.

How Did It Happen?

Last month, the two activists poured a strange red powder-like substance on top of the display case holding the United States Constitution. This caused the National Archives building to close down quickly as workers rushed to clean up the mess.

Source: AP/Ellis Brachman

After the incident, everyone in the National Archives buildings and galleries had to leave. The protestors, who had also covered themselves in the red powder, were caught by D.C. police when they showed up at the scene.

We Deserve Clean Air, Water And Food

Reports indicate that the two activists were protesting about climate change and believed that the government’s inaction was causing natural resources to become polluted.

Source: Unsplash/Mika Baumeister

A video was shared on X (formerly known as Twitter) showing the two men covered in red powder speaking while standing in front of the Constitution. One of them made this statement “We all deserve clean air, water, food and a livable climate.”

Cleanup Bill Hits $50,000

After the protestors were taken away and the National Archives were emptied, conservationists arrived to tidy up the Constitution case.

Source: AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

The cleanup bill has already hit $50,000. Workers have spent a lot of time removing the mysterious red powder, which is driving up the cost even more.

Careful Cleaning Preserves U.S. Constitution

Because the conservationists didn’t know what the substance was exactly, they were worried about using any liquids, even water, to clean it up. They wanted to make sure that employees stayed safe and that the display remained intact, so they chose not to use any liquid substances for cleaning.

Source: AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

The powder managed to get into all the tiny spaces of the display, but thankfully, it didn’t manage to go through the casing or reach the U.S. Constitution itself.

Rotunda Remained Closed

The rotunda stayed shut for four days as staff worked hard to clean up the mess. They found out the powder was red pigment and cornstarch, which was very fine and couldn’t be picked up by a regular vacuum.

Source: AP/Ron Edmonds

So, the employees had to get down ‘on their hands and knees’ until midnight to get it all cleaned up

Protesters Now Targeting Art And National Documents

Damaging art or important documents during protests isn’t new. In 1914, a suffragist in London used a meat cleaver to harm a canvas painting while demanding the arrest of another suffragist.

Source: AP/Kinokast

Today, many climate change protestors choose to vandalize art as a way to make their point. This is a very controversial action for many people.

An Increasing And Damaging Trend

There’s a growing trend of climate activists targeting natural treasures during their protests. Around the same time of the protest, two climate activists in Florence, Italy attacked images of flood damage in Tuscany on Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.”

Source: Regionalmedianews

The protestors were caught quickly, and the photos were taken down from their display case. Luckily, this incident wasn’t as damaging as the red powder attack. It only took 15 minutes to open the room to the public again.

Shell Oil Headquarters Protest (2015)

Back in 2015, Greenpeace activists staged a protest at the headquarters of Shell Oil in Seattle, Washington. They used kayaks to block the entrance to the oil rig Polar Pioneer, which was being leased by Shell for Arctic oil drilling.

Source: Common Dreams

The activists sought to draw attention to the environmental risks of Arctic drilling. They also called for action to combat climate change.

Mount Rushmore Banner Drop (2020)

In July 2020, climate activists from the group “Reclaiming Our Democracy” unfurled a large banner on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The banner had the faces of four past presidents on it. It also had a message that read, “America Is a Stolen Land” and “Mount Rushmore Is a Symbol of White Supremacy.”

Source: Sandiegouniontribune

The activists said that they wanted to highlight the connection between environmental destruction, indigenous rights, and racial justice.

Extinction Rebellion 2019 Climate Protest

In October 2019, a group called Extinction Rebellion used a fire engine to spray 1,800 litres of fake blood at Britain’s finance ministry in London. They did this to protest what they believe is the UK’s mixed approach to tackling climate change.

Source: Resilience

The group said they organized the protest to oppose the UK Government’s claims to lead in fighting climate change while spending lots of money on fossil fuel projects and products that harm the environment.

Soup Protestors Hit ‘Mona Lisa’

In January 2024, climate protestors aimed their message at the “Mona Lisa” painting in the Louvre by throwing soup at it. They wanted to make people pay attention to their cause. The two female protestors yelled, “What’s more important? Art or the right to healthy and sustainable food?”

Source: AFP

They were quickly arrested after the soup was thrown at the painting. Fortunately, the iconic artwork was not damaged. It is still up for display at the Louvre.

National Archives Seeks Punishment 

The National Archives released after the Red Powder attack. In the statement, the body condemned the act of vandalism and called for justice to be served. The statement said “The National Archives Rotunda is the sanctuary for our nation’s founding documents.

Source: Wikimedia/Rdsmith4

“They are here for all Americans to view and understand the principles of our nation. We take such vandalism very seriously and we will insist that the perpetrators be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”