By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – A quirky granite monument that some have dubbed “America’s Stonehenge” but which a conservative politician called “satanic” was torn down by authorities in rural Georgia on Wednesday hours after it suffered severe damage in a bombardment perpetrated by vandals.
Investigators from several law enforcement agencies gathered at the site 100 miles (161 km) east of Atlanta looking for clues about the predawn explosion that blew up a portion of the 42-year-old monument, called the Georgia Guidestones, in pieces.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) later posted on its official Twitter account a video of the explosion captured by a surveillance camera and other images of a car speeding away from the scene. .
He said the rest of the structure was deliberately demolished later that day “for security 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.
Before it was shattered, the 19-foot-tall monument consisted of a vertical slab in the center of four larger tablets arranged around it, with a large rectangular capstone placed on top of the others.
The collection of gray monoliths was erected in 1980 in the middle of a large field near the town of Elberton, Georgia, off Highway 77, and was listed as a tourist attraction by the state travel site and the County Chamber of Commerce of Elbert.
The slabs were engraved with an enigmatic message in 12 languages that called for the preservation of humanity by limiting the world’s population to less than 500 million people to live “in perpetual balance with nature,” according to official translations of the text.
The Guidestones also functioned as an astronomical calendar, arranged to let sunlight shine through a narrow hole in the structure at noon each day to illuminate the engraved dates.
But the monument sparked occasional controversy for linking its message to far-right conspiracies or religious profanity.
Prominent among them was former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor, who finished third in the May 24 Republican primary, who made removing the monument part of her campaign platform, a stance mocked by television comedian John Oliver.
Following news of the Guidestones bombing on Wednesday, Taylor suggested on Twitter that the monument’s disappearance was an act of divine intervention.
“God is God himself. He can do ANYTHING he wants to do. That includes tearing down satanic guide stones,” he tweeted.
Taylor later posted a video insisting that he would never support vandalism and that “anyone who goes onto public or private property to destroy anything illegally should be arrested.”
No law enforcement official has suggested that Kandiss was involved in the Guidestones bombing.
The precise origins of the ill-fated roadside attraction remain obscure. It was built by a local granite finishing company at the behest of a mysterious benefactor who commissioned the work under the pseudonym Robert C. Christian.
The Elberton Granite Association, which had maintained and preserved the stones, put the cost of replacing them at hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to local media.
Official descriptions say that the monument is 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 to 3,000 BC.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Neil Fullick)