A Chinese national, Jiamei Tian, was charged with one count of defacing property July 29 in connection with green paint vandalism at the historic Washington National Cathedral.
Police are investigating a possible connection to similar attacks on the Lincoln Memorial, on a statue near the Smithsonian Castle, and at a 140-year-old D.C. church and its statue of Martin Luther. The Martin Luther Place Memorial Church’s organ was defaced with paint mixed with human excrement, police said.
D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier told NewsChannel 8 that the cases “certainly seem to be” linked.
Police believe Tian is homeless, and her tourist visa expired in late July. She speaks little or no English, and was accompanied in court by a translator of Mandarin Chinese.
Tian was holding a soda can of green paint, and green paint was on her shoes, when police arrested her inside the National Cathedral on the day of those attacks.
The single charge she faces from the July 29 incident carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.
The National Cathedral has estimated repairing the damage in the two defaced chapels will cost $15,000.
The “nation’s house of worship” released details of the damage:
- In the 1912 Bethlehem Chapel, the console, casework, and pipes of the restored 1953 Aeolian-Skinner organ were splattered with green paint.
- That chapel’s gilded and painted altarpiece, hand-carved from linden wood, “bore the brunt of the damage.” Green paint was splattered on the statue of the Apostle John, standing to the left of Jesus.
- Similar vandalism occurred to the carved wood altarpiece and the ornate fan vaulting in the 1936 Children’s Chapel, “a much-loved space constructed to the scale of a six-year-old child” whom the chapel memorializes.
- Conservator William Adair of Gold Leaf Studios used swabs to carefully remove paint from the inscription “Little children, love one another”. That paraphrases Jesus’ “new commandment” in the Gospels (John 13:34), the Cathedral added.
On July 31, it released an update on the repairs:
- In the Children’s Chapel, conservators have removed most of the green paint from the gilt wooden altarpieces. “While a small amount of final detail work remains…the figures and lettering on the altarpiece are now largely paint free. The chapel should reopen late this week.”
- In the Bethlehem Chapel, paint was removed easily from the organ pipes, and work on the organ and the slate floor is finished. But removing all the paint thrown on the delicate wooden surfaces is “slower and more painstaking than expected, and restoration will continue well into next week,” the Cathedral said.
The vandalism occurred almost two years after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake caused serious damage to the landmark, the world’s sixth-largest cathedral, and America’s second-largest such church. It was built between 1907 and 1990 — 83 years.
Green paint was also found July 29 on a statue near the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall. It was on the pedestal of the statue of Joseph Henry, the Smithsonian Institution’s first secretary, who served from 1846 to 1878.
Green paint was discovered also on a statue of Martin Luther outside the Martin Luther Place Memorial Church on Thomas Circle in Northwest Washington. Its chapel was defaced with paint mixed with urine and feces, police said.
Two church officials said they had seen Tian in Sunday morning services.
On July 26, green paint was discovered on the Lincoln Memorial. Almost all the paint has now been removed from the 1922 monument, one of Washington’s most popular sights.
Words at the top of the beloved memorial say, “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”