Shia LaBeouf’s anti-Trump protest turned into an epic capture the flag battle, in which members of an online message board pulled off an impressive heist.
Starting on January 20, 2017 — the day Donald Trump was inaugurated as 45th president of the United States — Shia LaBeouf staged an art exhibit in which members of the public were invited to speak the words “He Will Not Divide Us” into a camera that would live-stream the performance, and the image of a white wall bearing those words, continuously for the next four years. From the very beginning, things did not go as planned.
“Open to all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the participatory performance will be live-streamed continuously for four years, or the duration of the presidency. In this way, the mantra ‘HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US’ acts as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community.”
Trump supporters flocked to LaBeouf’s art project, much to the chagrin of its participants. YouTube personality Brittany Venti screeched a battle cry into the camera, Trump supporters danced and threw milk after accusations on the livestream that drinking milk was racist towards black people, and fights broke out. Only six days after the project began, Shia LaBeouf was arrested after grabbing a Trump supporter’s scarf during an argument.
The Museum of the Moving Image called it “an ongoing public safety hazard” and abandoned the project.
Shia LaBeouf moved “He Will Not Divide Us” to a wall outside the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but shut it down less than a week later after shots were fired in the area. The installation had already been vandalized once by red paint.
On March 8, the project was moved to an undisclosed location. The livestream could therefore no longer have live participants, but instead showed a flag emblazoned with the words “He Will Not Divide Us” flying high.
It took less than two days for the flag to be replaced with a Trump hat and shirt.
Members of the anonymous message board 4chan studied the livestream for clues to the whereabouts of the new location of the “He Will Not Divide Us” protest art project. Using astronomy, the paths of airplanes flying overhead, and the sounds of birds and frogs in the area, 4chan investigators were able to determine the general area Shia LaBeouf had moved the project to. Studying the sounds of the animals gave a clue to the region, while studying the paths of airplanes and the time of sunset narrowed it down a more specific location.
At this point, although possible locations had been narrowed down, the exact location of the flag still had not been found. Anonymous posters took to their cars and engaged in a version of “Marco Polo” with the livestream viewers, honking as they drove up and down rural highways in Tennessee.
Finally, the flag was spotted from the ground.
An anonymous person crossed the property, removed the flag, and replaced it with a Trump hat and shirt. They kept the flag as a trophy. The user later posted a picture of the flag with a timestamp shortly after 4 a.m., and used GoogleMaps to draw the route they took from the highway to the flag.
Shia L flag pole undisclosed location, flag "he will not divide us" 4chan found flag using flight paths & astronomy replaced with MAGA hat pic.twitter.com/3CRUSW1vTX— randy pella (@PellaRandy) March 10, 2017
Unlike social media sites, the image board is completely anonymous, so there is almost no way of knowing who participated in the heist. Users expressed satisfaction at participating in the successful “capture the flag” battle that took less than 24 hours to win. The original threads have since been deleted, but the incident has been covered by a few media outlets, including TMZ and HeatStreet.
[Featured Image by Rob Kim/Getty Images]