Less than 24 hours after a monument of the Ten Commandments was installed outside the Arkansas State Capitol, a man rammed his vehicle into the granite tableau and destroyed it while yelling "Freedom!". The suspect, identified as 32-year-old Michael Tate Reed of Van Buren, Arkansas also apparently live-streamed the destruction on Wednesday (28 June).
The brief footage taken from inside the car shows him driving his Dodge Dart towards the 6-foot monument and yelling, "Oh my goodness. Freedom!" before knocking the 6,000-pound granite slab over, smashing it to pieces. The speedometer is shown at 21 mph (33kph) before the collision is heard.
In an earlier Facebook video, Reed identified himself and said he is a firm believer in the separation of church and state.
"I'm a firm believer that for our salvation we not only have faith in Jesus Christ, but we also obey the commands of God and that we confess Jesus as Lord," he said in the post. "But one thing I do not support is the violation of our constitutional right to have the freedom that's guaranteed to us, that guarantees us the separation of church and state, because no one religion should the government represent."
Reed was later arrested and booked at the Pulaski County Jail. He faces preliminary charges of defacing objects of public respect, trespassing on Capitol grounds and first-degree criminal mischief.
He was previously arrested for driving a car into another Ten Commandments monument at Oklahoma's state Capitol in October 2014, Oklahoma County sheriff's spokesman Mark Opgrande told The Associated Press. In an email to the Tusla World in 2015, Reed apologized for destroying Oklahoma's monument. He also said he was suffering from hallucinations and that the voices in his head were becoming his reality.
"I am so sorry that this all happening (sic) and wished I could take it all back," Reed wrote at the time.
The privately funded Arkansas statue was unveiled by state Senator Jason Rapert, who spearheaded the effort to install the monument, on Tuesday after a two-year battle to have it erected on the grounds of the State Capitol. In 2015, the Arkansas Legislature passed a law requiring the state to allow the display near the Capitol.
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union said it planned to file a federal lawsuit to challenge the monument, arguing that it was an unconstitutional government endorsement of one particular religion.
"We strongly condemn any illegal act of destruction or vandalism," Rita Sklar, executive director of ACLU of Arkansas, said. "The ACLU remains committed to seeing this unconstitutional monument struck down by the courts and safely removed through legal means."
Rapert said he wants to rebuild the monument and is confident that he will quickly raise funds for its replacement.
The incident comes as part of a growing trend where people are increasingly take to Facebook Live to broadcast criminal acts or disturbing incidents - from rape and suicides to shootouts, fights and murders. Facebook has continued to draw fierce criticism over the use of its platform to livestream such graphic and violent content on its platform. The company has not yet responded to the latest incident.
"I think for some it is probably some sense of instant gratification in that you can use something like social media and Facebook to get immediate viewing and immediate response", University of Memphis criminologist K.B. Turner told USA Today last month.
"We've seen bridge jumpers and those who set themselves on fire and then they will do other things to draw attention to a public act, but social media is a game changer."