Greenpeace Activists Face Slew of Charges For Their Stunt At Mount Rushmore National Memorial

What changes will Greenpeace stunt bring to the National Park Service's law-enforcement ranks? Greenpeace photo.

A recent publicity stunt by Greenpeace activists at Mount Rushmore National Memorial has produced a slew of charges against the activists that could lock them up for quite a while and prove quite costly.

While authorities aren't publicly discussing exactly how the 11 activists evaded Mount Rushmore's security systems on July 8 when they reached the top of Mount Rushmore and then rappeled down to drape a banner calling for more action from the Obama administration on climate change alongside the chiseled face of President Abraham Lincoln, they weren't being bashful with the charges they brought against the activists.

A federal grand jury has returned a four-count indictment charging eleven people and Greenpeace, Inc., a California corporation, with three or more misdemeanor offenses each relating to a July 8th incident in which a protest banner was unfurled on the mountain. The charges against Greenpeace and the eleven include one count of conspiracy to climb Mount Rushmore as prohibited by law. The indictment contains further specific allegations concerning the conspiracy charge which include the following:

Greenpeace provided planning and training for the individual co-conspirators.

Greenpeace caused the individual co-conspirators and their climbing, video, and photographic equipment to be transported to Rapid City, South Dakota, in preparation for climbing Mount Rushmore.

Greenpeace hired a helicopter to carry its members, agents and employees in order to allow them to observe, photograph and record the actions of individuals who were climbing Mount Rushmore on July 8th

As part of the conspiracy, certain individuals attempted to impede responding law enforcement officers by placing locks on security gates as well as by chaining themselves to areas where it would be difficult or impossible for responding officers to get around the individuals without risk of personal injury.

Greenpeace, Inc., is also charged with the following offenses:

Aiding and abetting eleven individuals trespassing in a national park by entering an area not open to the public without permission.

Aiding and abetting nine individuals with climbing Mount Rushmore as prohibited by law.

Aiding and abetting six individuals with intentionally interfering with a government employee or officer engaged in an official duty.

Charges against the eleven participants included conspiracy, trespass, illegally climbing the mountain and abetting others in these offenses. The maximum penalty for each of the four counts against Greenpeace is a $10,000 fine and restitution. The maximum penalty for each count naming an individual is six months’ imprisonment, a $5,000 fine and restitution. The investigation is being conducted by the Mount Rushmore rangers and by special agents of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Mark Vargo.

While how the activists deal with the charges remains to be seen, so too will how the National Park Service's security arm responds to the success of their protest. Supposedly Mount Rushmore is home to one of the more sizable and better equipped law-enforcement contingents found across the National Park System.


I can't say how I feel about what they did - but I have to say I wonder if it was worth it cuz this seems like it got barely any publicity.

Hope they get the max.

Hope all 11 knuckleheads get the max allowed by law.Enough is enough plus what makes them think they are right!

Throw the book at these clowns

What will be accomplished by prosecuting people who did not damage anything? If we send them to prison, we pay to feed, guard and entertain them. If we fine them, we will probably spend more money trying to collect it than we actually collect.
We should actually thank them. They provided a service to the country by showing how lax our security is. Of course, in a real national park, security is not that big an issue. Rushmore, being a park visited by people who eat ice cream a bucket at a time, probably needs more security than others. That being the case, security failed and we are fortunate to get a wake up call without any damage being done.

Wow...Just amazing logic! How about the damage that was potential to themselves, the environment, responding police personnel and NPS people as well as blatant disregard for the law and the reasons for the law. Arrogance like this deserves the MAX penalty!

I'm going to play Devil's advocate on this one and wonder what the big deal is. I can see why they chose Mt. Rushmore because these were great presidents. They demonstrated on a monument dedicated to the men (well 2 out of 4) that help give us the freedom to demonstrate and voice our opinion. Yes it was against the law and I have the utmost respect for the law (ok...I speed a wee bit) but I don't think it's as big a deal as people are making it out to be.

And honestly I don't think this is as damaging as some of the things the NPS does to the monument. Just 2 months before this they were practicing search and rescue techniques off of Jefferson's forehead. I honestly think that people rappling up and down the monument with ropes and a litter is much more damaging than a sign.

Ranger Holly

RangerLady If its no big deal does that mean we can go out break the law as long as you feel no one is being harmed. I guess if someone had gotten hurt getting these Morons down its ok because two of the four Presidents gave them the right to demonstrate even if its breaking the law and endangers others! The reason the NPS was practicing live saving techiques is to save idiots like these from harming themselfs and others! By the way you wouldnt happen to belong to Green Peace you sure sound like one of them!

These people are Eco-Terrorists! They put the response team in harms way! If one of the "rescuers" had died ,well the charges would have been different! If they could enforce there view on us they would because there right and the rest of us are wrong! They should be prosecuted and if convicted given the max! I have no tolerance for these people who want to change the world by acting out! You want to make a difference become a teacher or a scientist!

Usually RangerLady has some intelligent remarks, but this last comment requires a little more explanation than just "devil's advocate", being as she is, I presume, a Seasonal Ranger. I certainly hope while on duty, she performs the way the National Park Service expects her to perform, and not make decisions on her own. If the group had protested on the grounds of the monument, that is one thing; climbing the actual monument is another. To relate, people protest all the time in Washington DC; they don't actually climb up in Lincoln's lap, or climb up outside of the Washington Monument. At the very least, it is just plain disrespectful, if nothing else.

Lay off RangerLady. This is a forum, not her performance review....

Summer (and are you THE Summer from Firefly or just a poser?),

If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

For instance, RangerLady, where's your outrage that these presidents' faces were carved into sacred Sioux stone that legally, by the binding Treaty of 1868, belongs to the Sioux?

If you have respect for the law, you must reject the State's illegitimate claims to Mount Rushmore and recognize that any laws imposed on this parcel are therefore null and void.

Has no one in this country studied Native American history and learned of the long federal screwing of the aboriginal inhabitants?

Frank C.,
Excellent post. Rushmore itself is an abomination. The mountain was beautiful before it was carved into the shape of faces. People are way off base claiming response people were put in jeopardy. The Greenpeace people used the bolts which were already on the mountain (i.e. the govt damaged the mountain by putting the bolts in themselves). Outrage is good, just make it something worth being outraged about. Ask native Americans in the area how outraged they are. They can tell you stories that will make you cringe. Ask park rangers about maintenance projects which are on hold for lack of funding. The money we waste on Rushmore could be put to so much better use.

Frank and Kevin, this is not to condone 19th century U.S. conquest in the West, but does your disdain for the way Anglo-Americans treated Native Americans also apply to how Native Americans treated others?

The Lakota (Sioux), living on the North Central Plains, considered all Indians that did not belong to the Lakota people, lakholkichiyapi (alliance) to be enemies, thoka. The Lakotas were at constant war against neighboring tribes like the Pawnee, Crow and Arikara. Truce was only sought for the purposes of trade, and lasted usually only for a short time. -- Rani-Henrik Andersson, Ph.D. University of Helsinki/Renvall Institute/North American Studies Program


For what it's worth I happen to agree with you statement "the long federal screwing of the aboriginal inhabitants". I am trying to understand what that has to do with the original story about Greenpeace. Are you saying that because Rushmore came into being and therefore breaking the treaty then Greenpeace was somehow justified in their actions because the current laws as they are should be null and void...ignorable by any who wish to? To me these are very different discussions and the "screwing of the Native American (which I agree with you on) is a red herring to the original discussion.


Your summary of my argument is close, but my argument is not a red herring. The rightful owners (the Sioux) only have the right to prosecute. The federal government broke its own laws and stole the land; the government signed a LEGALLY binding treaty with a foreign nation that allowed the Lakota Sioux to keep the Black Hills:

"...but the United States would continue its battle against the Sioux in the Black Hills until the government confiscated the land in 1877. To this day, ownership of the Black Hills remains the subject of a legal dispute between the U.S. government and the Sioux. (Emphasis added.) US Government source here.

The Federal Government's claim to the Black Hills is legally illegitimate and nothing else is relevant (including Kurt's true red herring).

All points well taken. However unless Greenpeace is a Sioux Nation organization or somehow affiliated with another Native American entity, I fail to see why the law should not be enforced in regards to Greenpeace's actions at Rushmore. I guess what I am asking in light of the facts you have put forth, facts that I certainly agree with, what is your take on what should happen to the Greenpeace members who were arrested?

BTW...I hate this frakkin captcha system!


Say I settle a dispute with you. You relinquish your house to me but keep your car. You agree to this, even though it could be argued you are under duress or coercion. You sign your name on a legally binding agreement.

But then a month later, I find out your car is worth a lot of money. The original agreement allowed you to keep your car, but I decide I want that, too. So I carjack you, forcing you out of your car at gunpoint. I have no legal claim to your car; the dispute has legally been settled. But I drive off with your car, which I have stolen by force.

Then say someone vandalizes my car. If I go to the police, I cannot prosecute the vandal because I do not legally own the car. They would just give it back to its rightful owner.

That is unless I own the police, too. Then you could sue me for the car. But I own own the courts, too, and you're screwed.

The whole system is based on theft and lies and coercion, and any new "rules" made regarding the property (your car in this case) are null and void but enforced through a corrupt system.

(I'll spell it out: Since the federal government does not legally own the Black Hills (your car), they have no claim against GreenPeace for damages nor do they have the legal right to establish laws regarding said property.)

And that's your federal government.


(P.S., yeah, I hate the CAPTCHA, but as a former blogger, I understand how frustrating spam can be.)


So in your line of thinking because of the legal argument about who owns the Black Hills including of course Rushmore then federal laws should not be enforced...anarchy prevails...enter at you own risk? I honour your beliefs but am thankful they aren't reality as far as present day law keeping goes.

Until the land is returned to its rightful owners, yes, anarchy, which is not chaos, as some people paint it, but simply lack of government. [See definition number 3.] See also Monopoly on the "legitimate" use of physical force.

Let's put this into perspective: The very first activities of Greenpeace were directed against US and French open-air nuclear weapons tests. Those tests contaminated vast proportions of the Pacific Ocean and can still be easily detected in every little amount of air all over the world, because since the early 1960 there are radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere that do not belong there. To protest they sailed into the closed zone around the Pacific islands, played cat and mouse with the Navy and did everything to delay the tests. One of their earliest activists, the owner of the yacht "Vega" was aptly named David (McTaggert) and that is their That was of course illegal, the waters around the islands were closed by law, the Navy was there to stop trespassers.

Do you believe it was appropriate to break the law back then to protest against open-air nuclear weapons testing?

This reply is sad. What is the purpose of laws if there are no consequences to breaking them? Also, did you consider those who took their vacation to go to Mt Rushmore and on the day they were there got a Greenpeace banner? Had that been the day I visited, I would have been very angry! Instead of focusing on the costs to feed, guard, and collect, maybe you should ask why it costs so much and is so hard to collect from criminals. And "thank them" for revealing potential security issues? Should we thank those who rob convenience stores but don't actually hurt anyone? Or maybe we thank the guy takes a gun into a school, but doesn't actually shoot anyone? If we really had tough laws and tough courts, perhaps we wouldn't need as much security, but if we go with your approach we will need ever increasing amounts of security.

Oups! The incomplete sentence should have been: One of their earliest activists, the owner of the yacht "Vega" was aptly named David (McTaggert) and that is their strategy ever since: They take up against the big guys, the guys in uniforms, the guys with guns and the ones who make laws.

Anonymous, apparently my point didn't come across as clearly as I meant it to. What I was getting at is yes, they broke the law and went into a closed area as many, many visitors do every single day. I was trying to say they don't deserve all the attention they are getting because to me it was no different than the person who goes past the closed sign to get a better picture. I said I could understand why they chose that spot to demonstrate but I didn't condone them breaking the law.

There were some people commenting on resource damage caused by greenpeaace and I was trying to compare it to what the NPS has done up there and they didn't cause that much damage.

Didn't mean to cause such an uproar! Just didn't word it well I guess

Ranger Holly

Frank C, as a Native American that is a topic I don't get started on. My mother marched with AIM in her youth and would have been right up there on Rushmore demonstrating if she didn't have a young child.
Ranger Holly

Whoa,'re advocating anarchy, even in Wiki's third definition? Really? I defy you to come up with one example of anarchy anywhere that fits this definition. People are too selfish for anarchy as defined here to work. What you will get is the first or second definitions--just look at Mogadishu. If each "person has absolute liberty," then we degrade into situational ethics, and I think that "(without the implication of disorder)" is impossible. Otherwise, you have to acknowledge that there are agreed-upon laws, and once you do that, then someone must enforce the laws, and that is a form of governance.

Even if the land reverts to its rightful owners, there would be governance (i.e., tribal eldership), NOT an anarchic condition.

However, I agree with your point that the U.S.'s treatment of Native Americans is abysmal, and that we don't honor our treaties with them is unconscionable. But then...who owned the lands before the Lakota? Should the land therefore belong to them?

Speaking of AIM, isn't Leonard Peltier about due for parole?


Aren't you out of red herring cards yet?;-)

I'd disagree that my question was a red herring. You are condemning the actions of one society for its treatment of another. And yet, the Lakota have their own history of warring with their neighbors. Plus, as Skihde put it, "who owned the lands before the Lakota? Should the land therefore belong to them?"

I think my question is valid in light of the issues you raised regarding the Treaty of 1868, and to better understand your thinking. If you dismiss/ignore the Lakota's treatment of their peers, how can you hold the 19th century U.S. government to a higher standard?

Now, Bob's question could truly be viewed as a red herring to this discussion.

"You are condemning the actions of one society for its treatment of another."

No. I am condemning the federal government for breaking the law.

If you introduced this "history of warring with neighbors" in a court of law, it would be dismissed as irrelevant. Take for instance the scenario I described above where after a legal dispute has been settled, I find out the person with whom I had the dispute has a very valuable car and I take it by force. Whether or not that person got along with his neighbors has no relevance to the fact that I broke a legally binding document and took the car anyway. Also irrelevant to this legal discussion is the question "who owned the lands before the Lakota?" In a court of law, that would also be thrown out because the Lakota were the rightful owners when the federal government signed the treaty. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled that the lands were illegally taken. The rest is moot.

These red herrings attempt to absolve the government of theft. They cannot.

"Whoa,'re advocating anarchy, even in Wiki's third definition? Really? I defy you to come up with one example of anarchy anywhere that fits this definition."

Here are several historical examples of anarchy without chaos. If you'd read the Wikipedia article, you would have found several, including the Icelandic Commonwealth (930 to 1262).

Even if the land reverts to its rightful owners, there would be governance (i.e., tribal eldership), NOT an anarchic condition.

That's debatable, but until then, any laws made by the federal government are invalid. I call on any group to practice civil disobedience at Mount Rushmore. While I don't agree with Greenpeace's politics, I applaud their acts of civil disobedience.

The fact of it is, whoever had the power to take land and control it are the ones who own it.

No. If I take your property by power, force, coercion, your property LEGALLY is not mine. We supposedly have the rule of law in this country. Why should the federal government be exempted? All federal, non-private land in the Black Hills, including Mt. Rushmore, should be returned immediately to the Sioux.

This type of thing has been going on since man has been on the planet. The fact of it is, whoever had the power to take land and control it are the ones who own it. It was the same with the lakota or any other race on our planet. Alot of conquering armies would have eliminated or enslaved the conquered. I'm fairly sure that someone will say that the indian tribes were enslaved,or still are. Would those same people prefer what the lakota would have done if they had won the battle? It would not have been a birthday party. Living in the long gone past is not going to change the present. Deal with the present situation and try and change it if you don't like it.

I don't care for the politics of Greenpeace (or their fear of that grand hoax which is currently known as "climate change") but do applaud their total disregard for the sacredness of four dead politicians carved in granite and for a pretty dramatic act of civil disobedience on that hideous monstrosity of state worship called Mt. Rushmore. Any kind of dishonor that can be bestowed upon this comical collection of farcical busts is all right with me. The day that this insult to our collective intelligence is blown to smithereens will be a red letter day in American history.

As for anarchy, we need a lot more of it.

As usual I'm in complete agreement with Frank C. Big surprise, huh?

I knew this would get a response. The sioux did not live by our laws. did you READ what i said? When you conquer and control the land YOU make the laws. Whether you like it or not the sioux lost their battle to control what they had. They no longer make the law, unless they go through avenues that have been allowed now that they do have to abide by u.s. law. these are facts,like it or not. All of the indian tribes have much more than they would have had if some other invading force would have dealt with them. would you have rather had the japanese? or germans? i doubt you would be alive to say anything. it might not be right, but this is where we are. deal with the situation in a reasonable, legal way or buy a rifle and go psycho.

No, azborn2001, you're not reading or not comprehending what you're reading. Let me spell it out for you:

1. The US government militarily conquered the Sioux.
2. The US government entered into a legally binding, contractual agreement with the Sioux; it was called the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868).
3. The federal government made this law and then broke it when it forcibly took the Black Hills, which the law allocated to the Sioux.
4. The Supreme Court ruled that the Government illegally seized the Black Hills.

These are the indisputable facts.

Your writing contains no facts whatsoever; it's simply an opinion-laden diatribe full of logical fallacies and completely lacking in evidence. Come back when you have something substantive.

"Your writing contains no facts whatsoever; it's simply an opinion-laden diatribe"

Frankly, Frank, I find that offensive. Must you insult everyone you disagree, be a jackass and talk down to people? And what happened to NPT's policy of no personal attacks?

At least other people on this site don't pretend to be know-it-alls who have perfected rhetoric, the English language, and are all-knowing.

And what happened to NPT's policy of no personal attacks?

I don't know, Anonymous2; what did happen to it? You clearly violated it by calling me a jackass.

My comments, in contrast, focused on the writing (the unsubstantiated argument), not the person.

In fact, your whole comment is an ad hominem, which "consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim."

If you check my history of posts on NPT, you'll see that I have endeavored to avoid personal attacks.

The US Government claimed the hill under Public Domain, probably. You know, like they took ranch land from other people to make up the LBJ Ranch National or Historical Whatever. Like they take land and houses now; i.e., in Arlington to build a foodball stadium, whether people who lived in those houses for years wanted to move or not. Maybe the US Federal Government didn't really break a law - what they probably did was not adhere to their Treaty. Isn't there a technical difference?

The name calling and personal attacks in this thread will cease and desist. Right now.

Gee. Bob, just when I was beginning to enjoy it.

Rick Smith

Here are several historical examples of anarchy without chaos. If you'd read the Wikipedia article, you would have found several, including the Icelandic Commonwealth (930 to 1262).

What puzzles me, Frank, is that the Icelandic community to which you refer, while it may not have had a king or a parliament, still had authority and structure, which is NOT anarchy:

The medieval Icelandic state had an unusual structure. At the national level, the Althing was both court and legislature; there was no king or other central executive power. Iceland was divided into numerous goðorð (plural same as singular), which were essentially clans or alliances run by chieftains called goðar (singular goði). The chieftains provided for defense and appointed judges to resolve disputes between goðorð members. (From the same Wikipedia article you quoted (and suggested I had not read), granting for the moment that Wikipedia is a reliable enough source on these matters.)

You're making the case that a peaceful anarchic society is in some way possible, if not a good thing, and I simply cannot agree with that. People without some form of agreed-upon rule will eventually descend into chaos. Even the Icelanders you refer to from 930 to 1262, while they may not have had king, president, or parliament, still had structure and order. The Native Americans most certainly had structure and order, and not the anarchy you imply. My point is back to your original definition of anarchy, that

each individual has absolute liberty (without the implication of disorder) (from Wikipedia, 3rd definition)

is patently impossible. Icelanders then did not have "absolute liberty." Does it even make sense to suggest that anyone ever has? No governance, no laws or courts, or no agreed-upon rights and wrongs will quickly descend a society into situational ethics, and then all bets are off.

And please, I, too, do not condone ad hominems, but I think it's valuable for you to know that while you may not be actually making direct ad hominems against other writers, you most certainly and clearly come across in your tone as doing so.

The US Government claimed the hill under Public Domain, probably. ... Maybe the US Federal Government didn't really break a law - what they probably did was not adhere to their Treaty. Isn't there a technical difference?

Interesting question, Dottie. A treaty is recognized under international law. The Constitution, the supreme law of the land, gives the executive branch the power to make treaties, which must be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Again, treaties are recognized as law internationally and by the US Constitution.

The Supreme Court case I mentioned above (UNITED STATES v. SIOUX NATION OF INDIANS, 448 U.S. 371 (1980)), and it's quite complicated, shows that there were several laws broken, including a violation of the Fifth Amendment. The Fort Laramie Treaty stipulated that the Black Hills were to be reserved for the Sioux in perpetuity. Congress used its eminent domain powers when it passed the Act of Feb. 28, 1877, which took the Black Hills from the Sioux. Congress ignored the "Fort Laramie Treaty[provision] that any cession of the lands contained within the Great Sioux Reservation would have to be joined in by three-fourths of the adult [Sioux] males. Instead, the treaty was presented just to Sioux chiefs and their leading men. It was signed by only 10% of the adult male Sioux population." So the second treaty was legally invalid.

The Supreme Court echoed a Court of Claims decision that the federal government could not simultaneously act as a trustee for Indians and exercise its imminent domain powers. It found that the "1877 Act effected a taking of tribal property, property which had been set aside for the exclusive occupation of the Sioux by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. That taking implied an obligation on the part of the Government to make just compensation to the Sioux Nation...".

So, in light of this, I'd say there isn't a technical difference. The federal government broke its own laws. Wasn't the first time; probably won't be the last.

@Dottie: Do you mean "eminent domain"? Because Public Domain makes no sense in your posting.

MRC - thank you, I did mean eminent domain, not public domain.

But also, thanks all you guys for this indepth history lesson.

If i could make a suggestion to the judge i would suggest these GREENPEACE idiots be put on a highway clean up program let them clean up all those gronola bar wrappers,banna peels and apple core left by all those eco-wackos

Flu-Bird, got a picture of who exactly left those wrappers, peels and cores?

If you add beer cans to the list, the eco-wacko is named George Hayduke.

If the Greenpeace criminals truly believed in their cause, they wouldn't be cowards and plead not guilty, costing the taxpayers additional tens of thousands of dollars. They would plead guilty, spend the time in jail and consider it a small sacrifice for the greater good.

Pleading not guilty places them in the same league as rich frat boys pulling a college stunt. And no one should respect that.

you can't change this world without acting out, do you think the revolutions start by people living their lives of quiet desperation? Any person who thinks that all of mans laws need to be obeyed for "our safety" or any other reason is a complete sheep, and I personally feel terrible for you.