A Georgia rural landmark criticized by some conservative Christians as satanic and which others have called “America’s Stonehenge” was bombed before dawn Wednesday in an attack that turned one of its four granite panels to rubble.
The Georgia Guidestones memorial near Elberton was damaged by an explosive device, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said. The Elbert County Emergency Management Agency said the explosion was seen on video cameras shortly after 4 a.m. Photos and aerial videos show the destroyed panel on the ground.
The GBI released surveillance video Wednesday night showing the violent explosion and a silver sedan driving away from the crime scene at high speed. The detectives ask the public for help in tracking down the culprits. No descriptions of suspects or a possible motive have been released. It is not clear how many suspects are involved.
After previous vandalism, video cameras linked to the county emergency center were stationed at the site, said Chris Kubas, executive vice president of the Elbert Granite Association.
The enigmatic roadside attraction was built in 1980 from local granite, at the behest of an unknown individual or group under the pseudonym RC Christian.
“That gives the guidestones a sort of veil of mystery around them, because the identities and intentions of the individuals who commissioned them are unknown,” said Katie McCarthy, who researches conspiracy theories for the Anti-Defamation League. “And that over the years has helped fuel a lot of speculation and conspiracy theories about the true intent of the guidestones.”
The five-meter high panels carry a ten-part message in eight different languages with guidance for living in an ‘age of reason’. One part calls for keeping the world’s population at 500 million or less, while another calls for “wisely guide reproduction – improve fitness and diversity”.
It also serves as a sundial and astronomical calendar. But it is the mention by the panels of eugenics, population control and global government that has made them targets of far-right conspirators.
The monument’s fame boomed with the rise of the internet, Kubas said, until it became a tourist attraction along the road, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
The site received renewed attention during Georgia’s gubernatorial primary on May 24, when third-place Republican candidate Kandiss Taylor claimed the guidestones are satanic and made demolishing them part of its platform. Comedian John Oliver released the guidestones and Taylor in a segment at the end of May. McCarthy said right-wing personalities, including Alex Jones, had talked about them in previous years, but that “they sort of got back on the public’s radar” because of Taylor.
“God is God all alone. He can do ANYTHING he wants,” Taylor wrote on social media on Wednesday. “That includes knocking down Satanic Guidestones.”
The monument had previously been vandalized, including when it was painted in 2008 and 2014, McCarthy said. She said the bombing is another example of how conspiracy theories “have and can have a real impact.”
“We’ve seen this with QAnon and multiple other conspiracy theories, that these ideas can lead one to take action promoting these beliefs,” McCarthy said. “They may try to attack the people and institutions that are central to these false beliefs.”
Kubas and many other people interpret the stones as a kind of guide for rebuilding society after an apocalypse.
“It’s up to your own interpretation how you want to view them,” Kubas said.
The location is about 7 miles north of Elberton and about 90 miles east of Atlanta, near the South Carolina state line. Granite mining is a top local industry, with about 2,000 employees in the area, Kubas said.
Elbert County Deputy Sheriffs, the Elberton Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are among the agencies trying to find out what happened. Bomb squad technicians were called in to search for evidence and a state highway running near the site was closed for a while.
Kubas said the association has helped remove previous vandalism and will likely try to stabilize the damage. He said local officials and community leaders may need to decide who, if anyone, will pay for the restoration.
“If you didn’t like it, you didn’t have to come see it and read it,” Kubas said. “But unfortunately someone decided they didn’t want anyone to read it.”