A strange granite monument that some called “America’s Stonehenge” and a conservative politician declared “satanic” was torn down by authorities in rural Georgia on Wednesday, hours after it was badly damaged in an explosion set off by vandals.
Investigators from several agencies converged on the site 100 miles (161 km) east of Atlanta, looking for clues about the predawn explosion that blew apart part of the 42-year-old monument, called the Georgia Guidestones.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) later posted on its official Twitter feed a surveillance video of the explosion and separate footage of a car driving away from the scene.
It said the rest of the structure was deliberately demolished later in the day “for safety reasons”, with a photo showing the entire monument reduced to rubble. The initial damage was attributed to “unknown persons” who “detonated an explosive device” at the site.
The 20-foot-tall installation of gray monoliths was erected in 1980 in the middle of a large field near the town of Elberton, Georgia, off Highway 77, and is listed as a tourist attraction by the state’s tourism website and the Elbert County Chamber of Commerce.
The plates were engraved with an enigmatic message in 12 languages, calling, according to official translations of the text, for the preservation of humanity by limiting the world’s population to less than half a billion people to live “in eternal balance with nature.”
The site also functioned as an astronomical calendar, arranged to allow sunlight to shine through a narrow opening in the structure at noon each day to illuminate the engraved dates.
But the monument has drawn occasional controversy from some who have linked its message to far-right conspiracies or religious blasphemy.
Prominent among them was former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Candace Taylor, who finished third in the May 24 Republican primary. She made the removal of the monument part of her election platform, a position satirized by popular TV comedian John Oliver.
Following news of Wednesday’s blast, Taylor said on Twitter that the destruction of the monument was an act of divine intervention. “God is God Himself. He can do ANYTHING He wants. That includes removing satanic stumbling blocks,” she wrote.
Taylor later posted a video insisting that he would never support vandalism and that “anyone who goes onto the private or public property to destroy something illegally should be arrested.”
No law enforcement officials have suggested that Candace was involved in the bombing.
The exact origins of the roadside attraction remain unclear. It was built by a local granite processing company at the behest of a mysterious benefactor who commissioned the work under the pseudonym, Robert S. Christian.
The Elberton Granite Association, which has maintained the stones, has put the cost of replacing them at hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to local media.
According to official descriptions, the monument became known as America’s Stonehenge. But the site paled in age and grandeur to the original Stonehenge, a prehistoric landmark in Wiltshire, England, believed to date back as far as 3000 BC.
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