Buckingham Fountain closed after vandals dye water red, pro-Palestinian graffiti found

Colin Hinkle, a professional drone pilot, noticed the red dye mixing with the green water of the fountain early Saturday morning and saw spray paint on the ground that read, “Gaza is bleeding” and “Stop the genocide.” 'That’s when I realized it was a protest,’ Hinkle said.

SHARE Buckingham Fountain closed after vandals dye water red, pro-Palestinian graffiti found
Buckingham Fountain with the Chicago skyline in the background

Buckingham Fountain is closed “until further notice” after the pool water was dyed red in an apparent protest of the war in Gaza.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Buckingham Fountain is “closed until further notice” after the Grant Park tourist attraction’s pool water was dyed red overnight and messages protesting the war in Gaza were written on the ground surrounding the fountain.

“Damage was discovered in and around” the fountain overnight, police said. They did not provide further details.

Crews were working at the fountain Saturday to drain the water. Visitors could still access the area near the fountain Saturday afternoon, but the jets were turned off.

Colin Hinkle, a professional drone pilot, took photos of the dyed fountain water about 7:30 a.m. Saturday. He noticed part of the fountain appeared red from the window of his home, which overlooks Grant Park, and decided to send his drone over to get a better look.

From above, Hinkle noticed the red dye mixing with the green water of the fountain and saw spray-painted messages on the ground that read, “Gaza is bleeding” and “Stop the genocide.”

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“That’s when I realized it was a protest,” Hinkle said. “At first I thought it was maybe a promotional thing they were doing since NASCAR is coming up and there’s other festivals going on. I also thought it could’ve been some kind of water test or something.”

Hinkle said police cleaned up the spray paint “first thing,” because it was already gone by the time he got back home about 8:30 a.m.

“It’s kind of surprising that someone was able to get away with doing this, given there’s a festival going and NASCAR is being set up,” Hinkle said. “There’s already a ton of security over there, pretty much 24/7, so I’m surprised no one saw this happen.”

Two other park district workers who declined to be named were working to drain the fountain early Saturday afternoon. They told the Sun-Times it would take the whole day to drain the 1.5 million gallons of water and believed there are still buckets of red dye at the bottom but wouldn’t know until the water was drained to assess.

“It’s a shame all the water will be wasted,” one of the workers said.

Hinkle said he saw the red water being drained into Lake Michigan around 2 p.m. Saturday, and it turned part of the lake red.

Red dye is released into Lake Michigan

Red dye is released into Lake Michigan on Saturday afternoon near Grant Park. Buckingham Fountain was closed after the pool water was dyed red in an apparent protest of the war in Gaza.

Colin Hinkle/Provided

Donated by Chicago art patron and philanthropist Kate S. Buckingham in honor of her brother Clarence, the Buckingham Fountain opened to the public on May 26, 1927.

While in operation, the iconic fountain produces a water display for 20 minutes every hour from 9 a.m. until its last display around 10:55 p.m. During the display, a center jet shoots water to a height of 150 feet into the air.

Contributing: Pat Nabong

People take pictures of red water in the Buckingham Fountain, which had been reportedly vandalized Saturday morning, June 22, 2024. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

People take pictures of red water in the Buckingham Fountain. It’s kind of surprising that someone was able to get away with doing this, given there’s a festival going and NASCAR is being set up,” said Colin Hinkle, who lives near Grant Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A Chicago Park District worker removes paint from the perimeter of the Buckingham Fountain, which had been reportedly vandalized Saturday morning, June 22, 2024. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A Chicago Park District worker removes paint from the perimeter of the Buckingham Fountain. It could take a day to drain the 1.5 million gallons of water from the fountain.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Water in the Buckingham Fountain, which had been reportedly vandalized Saturday morning, appears red, Saturday, June 22, 2024. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“It’s a shame all the water will be wasted,” a park district worker said.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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