Of course, the Constitution allows for the right to peacefully assemble. But when you peacefully assemble in a restricted area on top of a National Memorial, that's another story.
Something tell us that maybe Greenpeace wasn't that concerned with the legal ramifications of the stunt they pulled today -- a stunt which began with a number of their activists climbing to the top of Mt. Rushmore and then unfurling a whopping 2,300 square-foot banner all the while Twittering and streaming the video live on their website.
What'd they get out of it? A dozen arrests. But also massive media exposure for one of their top issues: global warming (they're against it).
So early this morning, members of the environmental group climbed atop the 5,700 foot mountain and at exactly 10:00am, unfurled a sign which read, "America honors leaders not politicians: stop global warming."
The National Park Service disagreed with the addition to the memorial and took it down -- although the sign managed to stay up there for a good hour before it was removed.
Challenge to President Obama
At least 12 members of the group have been arrested so far. And as you would probably guess, they're not issuing apologies. Anything but. They're throwing down the gauntlet -- to President Obama.
"Our brave climbers rappelled down the face of Mt. Rushmore today to issue a challenge to President Obama: If he wants to get his face on this monument, he needs to be a true leader on global warming, not a politician," writes Mike G on the Greenpeace staff blog.
It's doubtful that Greenpeace can guarantee the president a place on the memorial regardless of what he does. That makes no difference to Greenpeace. Obama needs to step it up they say.
"We are at a key moment in history when we must challenge our president to take real leadership," said Carroll Muffet, deputy campaign director for Greenpeace.
"The steps taken so far have been frankly inadequate. If President Obama wants to take his place among the great leaders of history, he must take aggressive measures to combat climate change and prioritize a strong deal in Copenhagen," she said referring to the upcoming G-8 meeting.
What a stunt
Whatever happens to the arrested members, media consultants are impressed with the stunt. Not the illegality of it. But the level of coordination and the effective implementation of the Internet to get their message out.
"They pulled off a multi-faceted campaign using the most viral form of social media right now, Twitter," he said. "And they layered that on top of YouTube so people have access to video, Flickr so people have static images and then they updated their Facebook page while it was happening so their friends could then spread the word."
"The real lesson from an activist standpoint is when you do something big, do it on multiple platforms because it increases awareness and it can spread like wildfire."
A qualified thumbs up
Galvin said in terms of communicating a message effectively, he'd give it a "nine out of ten." But the jury is still out he says on whether the overall strategy will work. That's because Greenpeace broke the law and if any damage to Mt. Rushmore was done, it could be a big negative for the organization.
"If there was any defacement, if that banner whipped a piece of Abraham Lincoln's nose, then the message will get diluted very quickly," he said. "I'd give it a qualified thumbs-up."
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