A group of artists secretly installed a 100-pound sculpture of government leaker Edward Snowden in a New York City park early on Monday morning, though it was taken down by city officials later in the day.
The handful of people wearing yellow reflector vests and hard hats snuck into the park and, in the predawn hours, attached the massive bust of a neatly coiffed Snowden wearing his trademark square-rimmed glassed onto the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument in Brooklyn, which honors soldiers imprisoned in the Revolutionary War.
In a statement provided to city blog Animal, which also produced a short video about the installation, the activists said that the effort was meant to reinvigorate the focus on the leaker and the massive government surveillance that he exposed.
“We have updated this monument to highlight those who sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies,” they told the website.
“It would be a dishonor to those memorialized here to not laud those who protect the ideals they fought for, as Edward Snowden has by bringing the NSA’s [National Security Agency] 4th-Amendment-violating surveillance programs to light. All too often, figures who strive to uphold these ideals have been cast as criminals rather than in bronze.”
The 4-foot-tall head was placed on top of one of the four columns that encircle the monument.
Shortly after noon, a Vine staffer posted a video clip shortly showing park officials covering the statute with a blue tarp.
A spokesperson with the city parks department confirmed that it was taken down after that.
“Parks and NYPD have removed the sculpture,” Maeri Ferguson said in a statement to The Hill. “The erection of any unapproved structure or artwork in a city park is illegal.”
The installation came hours after Snowden appeared on John Oliver’s HBO show. "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver." During his show, the comedian joked about how the former government leaker had faded from the headlines, despite a looming June 1 deadline for Congress to confront Patriot Act provisions that have allowed the NSA to conduct some of its most controversial operations.
Snowden is currently living in Moscow, where he has been for nearly two years to avoid espionage charges in the U.S.
This story was updated at 3:08 p.m.