How the third monolith to crop up in the past month arrived atop Pine Mountain in Atascadero, Calif., where it was discovered by a hiker on Wednesday, remains a mystery.
How it left is no secret: Several young men who officials said had apparently driven five hours from Southern California livestreamed themselves tearing out the shiny, three-sided steel structure in Stadium Park early Thursday morning, and then leaving a plywood cross in its place.
“Christ is king!” the men, wearing night vision goggles and camo gear, chanted in the grainy video as they toppled the shiny structure, in a video that was posted to the streaming site DLive.tv by someone using the name CultureWarCriminal, but later removed, according to The San Luis Obispo Tribune. The Tribune described the video as “at times racist and homophobic” and said that the men sang along to country songs.
One of the men said in the video that they removed the structure to “tell the alien overlords they are not welcome,” according to The Tribune. Another claimed they were operating “on direct orders of QAnon and President Trump himself,” referring to the conspiracy theory that falsely claims Mr. Trump is being undermined by a group of Democratic pedophiles. More than 600 people were watching at one point, according to the paper.
A second video posted shortly after the first showed the men dragging the monolith down the hill while shouting “America first!” and referring to themselves as military veterans, according to the paper.
The California monolith had been the third shiny metal structure to crop up in the past month. The first structure, which captured wide attention, was discovered in a remote section of the Utah desert on Nov. 18, and was initially believed to be the work of the Minimalist sculptor John McCracken — or aliens.
Four men dismantled the Utah curiosity that had captivated the country just 10 days after it arrived, but not before it appeared to spawn copycats. A second structure popped up in the mountains of Romania on Nov. 26, shortly before the disappearance of the one in Utah. But the Romanian monolith also vanished on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported from Bucharest.
Like the structure in Romania, the California structure appears to be a copycat of the original in Utah. It stood about 10 feet tall and weighed an estimated 200 pounds, according to the City of Atascadero. While the Utah structure was firmly mounted, The Atascadero News reported that the California monolith was a little wobbly and it seemed that it would be possible to push it over.
Atascadero officials had previously marveled at the monolith’s arrival. Terrie Banish, deputy city manager of the small town of around 30,000 people on the central California coast, said in an interview on Thursday morning that whoever had installed it would have had to hike up to the site, which has an elevation of about 1,300 feet and is approximately two miles from the nearest parking lot.
On Thursday afternoon, city officials lamented its removal.
“We are upset that these young men felt the need to drive five hours to come into our community and vandalize the monolith,” the mayor of Atascadero, Heather Moreno, said in a release. “The monolith was something unique and fun in an otherwise stressful time.”
The city’s police department remained unsure who installed the monolith and was reviewing the video and looking into the incident further, according to the release.
Serge Kovaleski contributed reporting.