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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Statues near White House vandalized during Gaza cease-fire protest

    Statues and structures around the White House were graffitied and vandalized during the Gaza cease-fire protest on Saturday, though the National Park Service said officials were still assessing the extent and cost of the damage Sunday amid a cleanup effort focused on Lafayette Square.

    Thousands of demonstrators - many of whom had arrived on buses from more than two dozen cities - had surrounded the perimeter of the White House with a wide strip of red fabric Saturday, saying they were drawing a red line for President Biden and calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. During the rally, demonstrators were seen scrawling graffiti across several sculptures in Lafayette Square.

    Jasmine Shanti, a spokesperson with the National Park Service, said in a statement Sunday afternoon that the agency’s staff was “still evaluating the extent of the damage from Saturday’s demonstration and march around the White House.”

    “Notable damage includes graffiti, damage to some structures and damage to park infrastructure in Lafayette Park,” Shanti said, adding at 6 p.m. that there was “still no update for time of completion for the cleanup and repair.” Shanti did not provide further details about the damage to structure and infrastructure.

    A Washington Post reporter who went to the area around the White House on Sunday afternoon did not see damage beyond the graffiti. In Lafayette Square, sculptures were cordoned off with caution tape as workers power-washed them.

    Information on how much the cleanup would cost was not immediately available. The U.S. Secret Service said in a separate statement Sunday that there were no arrests or permanent property damage to the White House, or adjacent buildings, associated with the cease-fire protests.

    Photos from Lafayette Square during the protest show demonstrators writing on the base of a sculpture of General Comte de Rochambeau, a French army commander who fought alongside George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Messages scrawled across the base of one of the park’s sculptures included “Free Gaza,” “Ceasefire now” and “Shame on you Joe.”

    A sculpture of Andrew Jackson on a horse - in the center of Lafayette Square - was covered Saturday in red handprints and graffitied with purple text that read “Boycott Israel products.”

    On Sunday afternoon, a National Park Service crew was power-washing the statues. By about 3 p.m., most of the graffiti on the Andrew Jackson statue had been washed away. But paint, stickers and other markings were still visible on three of the park’s four central statues, including those built to honor Revolutionary War heroes, such as the Marquis de Lafayette statue in the park’s southeast corner.

    Other members of the crew were seen with paint remover, while some park visitors took photos and videos of the cleanup effort. Some graffiti had been scrawled outside the park, including on the exterior of the nearby U.S. Treasury building.

    In front of the White House, however, little evidence of Saturday’s protest remained as tourists ate ice cream and posed for photos outside its gates.

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