Professor Accused of Giving Instructions for Pulling Down Washington Monument

pulling down washington monument

Getty The Washington Monument (l) and the smaller confederate monument in Birmingham (r).

Sarah Parcak, a professor who studies ancient Egyptian archaeology, shared detailed instructions on Twitter for pulling down an obelisk, and some are accusing her of referring to the iconic Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., as video showed smoke billowing near it on May 31 and protests and riots raged throughout Washington D.C. and the country. However, others think it’s clear she meant a much smaller confederate monument in Birmingham, Alabama, and she noted in her lengthy Twitter thread that people should not pull down the Washington Monument.

Parcak wrote on her verified Twitter page, “Here’s a rough schematic. I note this is experimental archaeology in action! Just my professional Hot Take and you may need more people, longer rope, etc. everything depends on monument size.”

Parcak added, “WATCH THAT SUMBITCH TOPPLE GET THE %^&* OUT OF THE WAY IT WILL SMASH RUN AWAY FROM DIRECTION. Then celebrate. Because #BlackLivesMatter and good riddance to any obelisks pretending to be ancient Egyptian obelisks when they are in fact celebrating racism and white nationalism.” She then added, “OK because this is twitter I need to clarify: PLEASE DO NOT PULL DOWN ACTUAL ANCIENT EGYPTIAN OBELISKS that was not the point of this thread.”

Was she talking about a confederate monument in Birmingham, Alabama, or the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., though? She referenced both in tweets next to the detailed directions for how to pull down an obelisk. In that thread, she wrote, “PLEASE DO NOT PULL DOWN WASHINGTON MONUMENT.” Protesters in Birmingham did pull down a statute and deface the confederate monument there.

The obelisk in her rough schematic is labeled “racist monument.”

Will Sommer, a reporter for the Daily Beast wrote, “A huge number of conservative media types are convinced this thread about pulling down a Confederate memorial in Birmingham is actually a secret plot to topple the Washington Monument. … The logistics of pulling down the Washington monument with ropes, as conservative personalities are claiming is planned in that thread, would be comically difficult.” Similarly, another Twitter user wrote, “You seriously think this woman was suggesting you can pull down the Washington Monument with a group of people and some chains? Are you dense?”

The Washington Monument was “designed by Robert Mills and eventually completed by Thomas Casey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” and it “honors and memorializes George Washington at the center of the nation’s capital,” according to the National Park Service, which describes it as being “built in the shape of an Egyptian obelisk.” It stands 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches. It is 55 feet wide at the base.

Protesters did try to pull down the much smaller Birmingham confederate monument on May 31, according to Al.com. They attached rope to it and tried to pull it down with a truck but were not successful.

“The protesters looped one end of the rope about a third of the way up the obelisk and hitched the other end to the back of a red GMC pickup truck. Had they been successful, the monument would have crushed the truck and likely killed or injured bystanders. Instead, their two attempts ended with two broken ropes,” Al.com wrote.

The confederate monument in Birmingham, Alabama, looks similar to the Washington Monument, but it’s a lot smaller. “The protesters defaced the Confederate monument, chipped away part of the concrete and pulled the wooden barrier off the base,” WBRC wrote of the May 31 vandalism there.

Parcak wrote her tweets at 8:48 p.m. on May 31.

GettyA man pauses to look at a now covered Confederate monument in Linn Park. on August 18, 2017, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Her Twitter page and website say she’s a professor and “space archaeologist.” Her faculty bio shows she’s a professor at the University of Alabama’s Department of Anthropology at Birmingham who studies “Archaeology, archaeological science, archaeological theory, landscape archaeology, Egyptian archaeology, Egyptology, remote sensing, GIS, public health.”

She also wrote, “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.”

Her faculty bio describes her as:

Sarah serves as the founding director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Sarah and her husband, Egyptologist Greg Mumford, work together on the Surveys and Excavation Projects in Egypt, which includes archaeological projects in the Delta, Sinai, and pyramid fields regions of Egypt. Sarah has written the first textbook on the field of satellite archaeology, Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology, and has published numerous peer reviewed scientific papers.

Here’s what you need to know:


Parcak Provided Detailed Instructions for How to Pull Down an Obelisk

TwitterSarah Parcak tweet

Parcak also wrote on Twitter, “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 *might be masquerading as a racist monument I dunno. My Bona Fides: I’m an Egyptologist. I have worked in Egypt for 20 years and know a lot about ancient Egyptian architecture. Especially how they raised obelisks.”

She went on in great detail to describe how people could pull down an obelisk structure. Heavy is not publishing the entirety of her instructions. However, here’s one of her multiple tweets to show you the level of detail: “You probably want 150+ ft of rope x 2…you’ll want to be standing 30 feet away from obelisk so it won’t topple on you (your safety! first!). This gives enough slack for everyone to hold on to rope, alternating left right left right. Here’s the hard part…pulling in unison.”

TwitterOne of Parcak’s tweets.

She discussed things like rope length and amount of people needed. After multiple tweets explaining how to do it, she wrote, “BUT OF COURSE THIS IS ALL ENTIRELY HYPOTHETICAL. ALSO PLEASE DO NOT PULL DOWN WASHINGTON MONUMENT.”

“She was NOT talking about the Washington Monument. She was talking about a much smaller confederate obelisk in Birmingham, Al. Do you realize how tall the Washington Monument it is?” wrote one person. But another person wrote, “She literally references the Washington Monument 3 tweets later…”

The Birmingham monument has been a focal point of controversy. The mayor built a box around it and a legal battle has raged over it.


Smoke Rose Near the Washington Monument

A video circulated showing smoke near the Washington Monument.

Reaction to that image differed. Here’s some of it:

“This image has just created a million more Trump voters in November.”

“The White House did get burnt down before.”

However, another image showing a fire near the Washington Monument is actually from the television show Designated Survivor.

Protesters have already attacked monuments, spraypainting graffiti on a memorial honoring World War II soldiers at the National Mall, according to Fox 5 DC.

The National Park Service wrote, “In the wake of last night’s demonstrations, there are numerous instances of vandalism to sites around the National Mall. 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.” Eleven police officers were injured and buildings throughout Washington, D.C., were damaged, Fox 5 DC reported.

People who set fires near the White House were met with tear gas.

“The White House went dark, turning off almost all of its external lights, as protesters set fires nearby and thousands again defied curfews to demonstrate against police brutality. Smoke was seen rising near the Washington Monument,” The New York Times reported.

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