Eric Maier, 32, faces a felony and misdemeanor charge of unlawful mischief; he’s due in court next week. Cops also cited Margaux Higgins, 21, as an accessory to the crime.
Police believe Maier spray painted the word “Colonizers” across the public art on October 19. Then on Halloween, police say, Maier used a solvent to remove the faces of the white people leading the parade depicted in the 124-foot-long mural and spray painted pink dollar signs in their places.
“Damage is estimated at $5,000 to $10,000 and may not be repairable,” Burlington police Det. Thomas Chenette wrote in a press release Friday announcing the arrests.
The artwork has been controversial in Burlington because it predominantly represents white people. It was intended to commemorate Samuel de Champlain's "discovery" of Lake Champlain and some of the people who shaped Vermont's history over the subsequent 400 years. Critics say the massive piece of public art, just off Church Street on Leahy Way, fails to represent the legacy of Native Americans.
Maier has criticized the piece and posted about it on Facebook, including the day after the most recent vandalism, when he referred to it as a "(basic, genocidey) mural." In his November 1 post, Maier included a photo that he said a friend had taken “last night” that shows the defacement and pink dollar signs. He also posted a photo of a tarp covering the vandalism and mentioned Margaux, who “pointed out" that "they were literally de-faced.” Maier included a thumbs-up emoji.
“Seeing as the faces are now gone forever, one wonders what the city’s long-term solution will be,” Maier wrote.
Maier also posted about the October 19 vandalism, of which he had taken a photo.
"When you're in the right place at the right time and your photo makes the news," he wrote, along with a link to a My NBC5 story about the incident.
Police said a tip lead them to Maier.
"He posted photos of the damage on Facebook, reportedly to gain notoriety and promote his beliefs," Chenette wrote in his press release. "Multiple search warrants obtained by law enforcement for social media, phone accounts, and a residence on S. Willard Street in Burlington, led to the identification and arrest of Maier as the vandal and Margaux Higgins of Burlington as an accessory to the crime."
Police arrested Higgins on November 7; Maier was arrested Wednesday.
Reached by phone Friday, Maier declined to comment on his arrest or the vandalism. He's also been vocal about other Queen City issues, including the impending basing of the F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport.
Maier’s band, a quintet that enjoyed a meteoric rise through the last several years, is on an indefinite hiatus after playing its last show on November 2 — two days after the most serious mural vandalism.