On July 22, 2014 people noticed the American flags on the 276-foot Brooklyn Bridge towers were missing, replaced with what appeared to be white surrender flags.
Police scrambled to find an explanation, scanning video surveillance recordings. Intelligence agencies looked at what this date might have mean to terrorist groups. Fortunately these were flags and not bombs.
Then, one group took responsibility: @BicycleLobby posted to their Twitter account that this was a surrender of the bridge to bicycles, but this turned out to be a hoax.
The flags weren’t white flags, though. These were American flags that had been bleached.
In my Instagram post below, the flag on the Brooklyn Bridge tower looks bleached on this gray day, but don’t worry, it was a normal flag.
Two and a half hours of video surveillance offered the most hope. At 3:30 a.m., five people were seen, climbing a locked gate and scaling a bridge cable to reach the top of the tower. But then, the lights on the towers went dark!
The individuals had placed aluminum cooking pans to the lights.
NYPD anti-terrorism chief John Miller was astonished at the level of preparation involved. Meanwhile, New Yorkers were furious that this could have happened!
On August 12, 2014, the New York Times reported that two Berlin-based groups had taken responsibility for the flag switch. But why?
Through a series of phone calls, Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wemke explained that they did this as a tribute to John Augustus Roebling, the German immigrant who designed the bridge and died on July 22, 1869, during construction of the iconic bridge.
The German artists’ tribute was to the wonderful use of public space that Roebling provided. They hoisted the flags on the anniversary of Roebling’s death. They also requested that police return their flags.
Four years later, the two artists returned to the United States to face charges.