Friday 23 March 2018

Man destroys new Ten Commandments statue in Arkansas

Officials inspect the damage to the new Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol in Little Rock. (AP)
Officials inspect the damage to the new Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol in Little Rock. (AP)

A man has crashed his vehicle into the new Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas, nearly three years after he was arrested over the destruction of Oklahoma's monument at its state Capitol, authorities said.

The privately funded monument had been in place outside the state Capitol in Little Rock for less than 24 hours before it was knocked from its plinth and smashed to pieces.

Michael Tate Reed, 32, of Van Buren, Arkansas, was booked into Pulaski County jail on preliminary charges of defacing objects of public interest, criminal trespass and first-degree criminal mischief.

Arkansas Secretary of State's Office spokesman Chris Powell said officials believe a Facebook Live video posted on a Michael Reed's Facebook account that depicted the destruction is authentic.

In the video, the sky is dark and the Arkansas Capitol's dome is visible. Music is heard followed by a female voice, likely on the radio, saying, "Where do you go when you're faced with adversity and trials and challenges?"

The driver is then heard growling, "Oh my goodness. Freedom!" before accelerating into the monument. The vehicle's speedometer is last shown at 21mph and then a collision can be heard.

Arkansas' monument fell from its plinth and broke into multiple pieces as it hit the ground.

Oklahoma County Sheriff's spokesman Mark Opgrande said that Reed was arrested in October 2014 over the destruction of Oklahoma's Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol.

Mr Opgrande confirmed that the suspect arrested in Arkansas was the same person arrested in the Oklahoma case.

In a 2015 email to the Tulsa World , Reed apologised for wrecking Oklahoma's monument and said he suffered from mental health issues.

"I am so sorry that this all happening (sic) and wished I could take it all back," Reed said.

Arkansas' granite monument, which weighs 2,721 kilogrammes, was installed on Tuesday morning on the south west lawn of the Capitol with little fanfare and no advance notice.

A 2015 law required the state to allow the display near the Capitol, and a state panel last month gave final approval to its design and location.

"Obviously, I'm very disappointed that someone would carry out an act of violence that's actually against the people of Arkansas," said Republican Sen Jason Rapert, the state politician who led the push for the monument.

Sen Rapert said he was confident he could quickly raise funds for a replacement.

Travis Story, the general counsel of the American History and Heritage Foundation, which raised money for the monument, said the group has already ordered a replacement, but that it would take a couple of months.

Republican Gov Asa Hutchinson, who signed the legislation requiring the monument's installation, called its destruction "very troubling".

"Resorting to property destruction is never the answer to a policy disagreement," he wrote in a tweet.

The American Civil Liberties Union said on Tuesday that it planned to file a federal lawsuit challenging the monument, calling it an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.


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