Eds: MAJOR UPDATE: This story has been updated with officials demolishing the entire monument for safety reasons.
ATLANTA (AP) — A rural Georgia monument that some conservative Christians criticized as satanic and others dubbed “America’s Stonehenge” was demolished Wednesday after a predawn bombing turned one of its four granite panels into rubble.
The Georgia Guidestones monument near Elberton was damaged by an explosive device, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said, and later knocked down “for safety reasons,” leaving a pile of rubble in a picture that investigators published.
After prior vandalism, video cameras connected to the county’s emergency dispatch center were stationed at the site, said Elbert Granite Association Executive Vice President Chris Kubas.
The enigmatic roadside attraction was built in 1980 from local granite, commissioned by an unknown person or group under the pseudonym R.C. Christian.
“That’s given the guidestones a sort of shroud of mystery around them, because the identity and intent of the individuals who commissioned them is unknown,” said Katie McCarthy, who researches conspiracy theories for the Anti-Defamation League. “And so that has helped over the years to fuel a lot of speculation and conspiracy theories about the guidestones’ true intent.”
The 16-foot-high (5-meter-high) panels bore a 10-part message in eight different languages with guidance for living in an “age of reason.” One part called for keeping world population at 500 million or below, while another calls to “guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.”
It also served as a sundial and astronomical calendar. But it was the panels’ mention of eugenics, population control and global government that made them a target of far-right conspiracists.
The monument’s notoriety took off with the rise of the internet, Kubas said, until it became a roadside tourist attraction, with thousands visiting each year.
The site received renewed attention during Georgia’s May 24 gubernatorial primary when third-place Republican candidate Kandiss Taylor claimed the guidestones are satanic and made demolishing them part of her platform. Comedian John Oliver featured the guidestones and Taylor in a segment in late May. McCarthy said right-wing personalities including Alex Jones had talked about them in previous years, but that “they sort of came back onto the public’s radar” because of Taylor.