Capitol police are investigating a bloody incident involving a state worker, a protester and a red heart balloon at the state Capitol.
The incident occurred shortly before 1 p.m. Monday, at the end of the daily “Solidarity Singalong” in the rotunda. The protester, Leslie Peterson, said she had come to the Capitol to join in singing “Solidarity Forever” with the group and was carrying one of the red heart balloons that have become a frequent sight at the Capitol. Peterson said she was posing for a photo when the state worker approached and popped it, apparently with a knife.
“He was stabbing the balloon,” she said. “It was disconcerting.”
She then went to retrieve the “balloon carcass,” she said, and asked the worker for his name so she could file a complaint. That’s when he shoved her into a door, Peterson said.
The state worker, who was not identified by police or by state officials, did not return calls seeking comment.
Drops of blood — apparently his — were scattered on the floor outside the state Supreme Court, and more drops trailed down the stairs of the East Wing.
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“We’re treating this as a crime scene,” Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said.
Protesters at the singalong said the worker appeared to have stabbed himself during the incident.
But the state employee indicated that “prior to the incident he slipped on the stairs and cut his hand,” said Department of Administration spokesman Christopher P. Schoenherr.
Protesters began bringing red heart balloons to the Capitol early this year, and one from February had hovered atop the dome for months. The heart balloon became a symbol of sorts, complete with its own "Capitol Balloon" Facebook page and "The Heart Balloon" Twitter account.
That balloon vanished from the dome in late June, but protesters have been releasing others in its absence. More than a dozen balloons were released in the rotunda Friday, but all of those had been removed by Monday morning.
Dozens more were released after the incident and were hanging in bunches Monday night at the top of the dome.