SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Officials at Mount Rushmore may change their security measures after environmentalists were able to hang a banner warning about global warming from atop the national monument, a spokesman said.
The activists intentionally damaged part of the memorial's security system and were able to delay rangers' response to the demonstration Wednesday, said Nav Singh, a spokesman for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. He would not be more specific.
"We're going to take this opportunity, as we do with all other opportunities, to do a self-assessment and check our security structure and identify things that are worth strengthening, based on what our investigation reveals," Singh said.
Eleven people pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to federal misdemeanor charges of trespassing and climbing Mount Rushmore. The prosecutor said each charge carries a penalty of up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The demonstrators unfurled a 65-by-35-foot banner along President Abraham Lincoln's face that read: "America honors leaders not politicians: Stop Global Warming."
Greenpeace said in a statement that its members took advantage of rock anchors put in place and used by the Park Service.
Singh would not comment on how the group gained access to areas of the memorial that are off limits to the public, saying only that they were "well-equipped, they were well-supported and they were well-organized."
Mount Rushmore — with its 60-foot high faces of U.S. presidents Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt carved into Black Hills granite — has been the scene of other demonstrations. Some were allowed through a permit process, others were unauthorized.
"This demonstration was a little more dramatic than the others ones, but the public was never in danger," Singh said.
He said the activists were spotted by the memorial's security system and by visitors at nearly the same time Wednesday.
"There were things they did that made it difficult and delayed our access to them," Singh said. "I can't comment on how long they delayed us by. We don't want other people to get bright ideas."
The memorial, completed in 1941, drew 2.4 million visitors last year.
"Could we use more resources?" Singh asked. "Of course, I think any other organization or even our own homes can use more resources. Does that guarantee you will never have an incident? I don't think anybody can say that."