April 6, 2001 -- A man wielding a small hammer struck theLiberty Bell at least four times this morning, leaving an imprinton the lip of the 249-year-old symbol of freedom.
Mitchell Guilliatt, 26, was taken into custody after witnessessaid they heard him invoke God's name before violently hitting thebell.
"I just seen a man yelling out 'God lives on!' then he juststarted banging on the Liberty Bell," student Christopher Goodingsaid.
Guilliatt, who described himself to authorities as "awanderer" from Nebraska, was to be charged with damaging U.S.property and a related charge for historical damage, Assistant U.S.Attorney Mitchell Goldberg said. The charges carry up to sevenyears in prison.
The pavilion where the bell is housed was temporarily closedwhile the bell was being examined by National Park Servicecurators, park service spokesman Phil Sheridan said.
Dents Will Be Touched Up
Guilliatt had participated in a tour and speech about the belland was apprehended immediately by Park Service police.
"The rangers heard a noise of metal hitting metal and theindividual had a hammer maybe 3 to 4 inches long and the individualwas hammering on the rear of the Liberty Bell," Sheridan said.
After checking to be sure there is not hidden damage to thebell, park rangers will coat the bell with wax to protect it andtouch up the dents with coloring to blend them with the rest of thebell, Sheridan said.
The bell, made in England, was delivered to Philadelphia inAugust 1752. It was cracked by a stroke of the clapper while beingtested and was twice recast before being hung in the State Housesteeple in June 1753.
The name "Liberty Bell" was first applied in 1839 in anAbolitionist pamphlet. It was rung for the last time for a GeorgeWashington birthday celebration in 1846, during which it crackedirreparably. Since then it has been ceremonially tapped severaltimes.
More Than 1 Million Annual Visitors
In 1976, the bell was moved to a new pavilion about 100 yardsfrom Independence Hall. According to the park service, the bell hasnot been maliciously struck since then.
The bell is surrounded by velvet ropes and visitors are askednot to touch it. In a new planned $11 million glass, steel andgranite pavilion, the bell will be separated from visitors by aglass case.
More than 1.6 million people visit the Liberty Bell annually. Atypical summer weekend day can draw 10,000 visitors.