Constitution cleanup took 335 hours after climate protest

By Robin Bravender | 02/26/2024 04:15 PM EST

Dozens of people cleaned up after climate protesters poured powder on the case holding the U.S. Constitution, officials said. 

Conservation staff members clean the encasement holding the U.S. Constitution.

Conservation staff members clean the encasement holding the U.S. Constitution in the National Archives Rotunda on Feb. 14 in Washington. The rotunda was vandalized Feb. 14 by individuals who poured pink powder over it and themselves. Ellis Brachman/National Archives

Cleaning up after a climate protest in the National Archives earlier this month took about 30 people and an estimated 335 combined hours of work, officials announced Monday.

The National Archives released details of a “painstaking cleanup” after climate activists staged a Valentine’s Day protest, where the protesters dumped red powder on themselves and on the case covering the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution itself was “not at risk for damage by this incident,” Stephanie Hornbeck, national preservation program officer, said in a statement. But damage could have been done to the marble floor and the exhibit case.


The two protesters — both of whom were arrested that day — were supporters of the climate activism campaign Declare Emergency, Tim Martin, a spokesperson for the campaign who was not a participant in the Feb. 14 event, told E&E News.

The Declare Emergency campaign, according to its website, uses “nonviolent civil resistance techniques to disrupt the status quo and demand that our government take meaningful action to address the climate emergency.”

Martin said earlier this month that the activists had chosen children’s tempera paint powder for “ease of cleanup.”

The cleanup crew was careful to use dry cleaning methods, Hornbeck said. Wet cleaning methods “would have transformed the dry pigment into a paint, which would have penetrated the porous marble.” That would have made it “very difficult to completely remove the visible dark pink coloration.”

The rotunda at the National Archives reopened to the public Feb. 17. “The National Archives is working with federal law enforcement agencies to ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the agency said in a statement.