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Man Seized After Attacking Liberty Bell

April 07, 2001|From Reuters

PHILADELPHIA — A man dressed in military fatigues and shouting about God attacked the 249-year-old Liberty Bell with a hammer Friday in front of a group of astonished tourists, federal park officials said.

The unidentified man was quickly wrestled to the ground and arrested by National Park rangers inside the small glass Liberty Bell pavilion near Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were adopted in the 18th century.

Officials described the assailant as a white man, about 30 years old, with no identification. He was wearing several layers of clothing, including fatigues, and carried a guitar and bamboo pole.

"He mentioned something about God and struck the bell four or five times," said Frank Eidmann, director of special projects for the Independence National Historic Park.

"Anyone who attacks a national symbol is disturbed. What he was disturbed about, we don't know," Eidmann said.

The Liberty Bell, which rang from the tower of Independence Hall to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, is Philadelphia's biggest single tourist attraction.

The pavilion was closed for about three hours while preservationists examined several blemishes and hammer imprints left by the attack. Officials said they would need more time to determine whether there was serious damage.

Park officials said the man had been part of a regular public tour and historical lecture that had just ended when he withdrew a small hammer from his jacket.

Frank Miranda, a California math teacher who witnessed the attack with a tour group of middle school students, said he thought he heard the suspect shout that freedom is God.

The National Park Service later set up a new barrier to stop visitors from getting close to the bell.

The Liberty Bell has been attacked more than once in recent history. The last time was in the early 1970s, when a man was arrested for beating the bell with a car's tailpipe, a National Park Service spokesman said.

The bell was cracked by a stroke of its clapper soon after its arrival from England in 1752, and the crack became permanent during an 1846 celebration of George Washington's birthday.

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