It looks like the boys down that the precinct can put the “Mystery White Flags Atop the Brooklyn Bridge” case to bed. The United States did not, in fact, surrender the Brooklyn Bridge. And, of course, Americans in New York City and beyond can now sleep a little easier knowing that terrorists—trained in parkour—are not launching a flag-swapping assault on the nation’s bridges.
The mystery began last month when two white flags were seen flying from the top of the Brooklyn Bridge in place of the usual American flags. Police were stumped by the switcheroo and seemingly a little bit embarrassed that someone managed to scale the structure that is considered a potential terrorist target and therefore—supposedly—highly protected. On Tuesday, the self-identified masterminds behind the scheme outed themselves to the New York Times. Were the flag-swappers terrorists? No, they were artists from Berlin and the stunt was meant to celebrate “the beauty of public space” timed to commemorate the death of the German engineer who built the bridge. Here’s more from the Times on the cryptic artists, Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke, what exactly they were thinking, and how they pulled the whole thing off.
“We saw the bridge, which was designed by a German, trained in Berlin, who came to America because it was the place to fulfill his dreams, as the most beautiful expression of a great public space,” Mr. Leinkauf said. “That beauty was what we were trying to capture.” They volunteered that the flag project transpired roughly between 3 and 5 a.m. on July 22. They said they carried the white flags in backpacks up the climbing cables that workers and the police use to reach the towers, and did not see security cameras. They would not say whether other people were involved. They had made the flags themselves, they said, spending more than a week hand-sewing them with two kinds of white fabric, alternating the fabrics to make stripes, cutting out holes for the stars from one fabric and filling them in with the other. At about 10 by 19 feet, the white flags approximated the size of the American flags on the bridge. The artists stressed that when they removed those flags, they ceremonially folded them, “following the United States flag code,” Mr. Leinkauf said. The flags will be returned, he promised.