Matthias Wermke, Mischa Leinkauf: German Artists Claim Responsibility for Brooklyn White Flags

Matthias Wermke and Mischa Leinkauf–German artists–claimed responsibility for swapping out American flags with white flags on top of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City a few weeks ago, prompting outrage and panic.

The New York Times reported that Wermke and Leinkauf confirmed they did it.

The two stressed that it had nothing to do with terrorism but the move was intended to celebrate “the beauty of public space.” They also wanted to celebrate German-born engineer, John Roebling, who was in charge of constructing it. He died on July 22, 1869, and on July 22, 2014, the white flags appeared.

“This was not an anti-American statement,” Wermke added. “From our Berlin background, we were a little surprised that it got the reaction it did. We really didn’t intend to embarrass the police,” Leinkauf said.

“We have some leads we’re following up on,” New York Police Department spokesman Stephen Davis told the paper on Tuesday. “The police commissioner feels optimistic that within a reasonable amount of time, we may be able to make some arrests.”

He continued: “We’re not in a position to talk anymore about the specifics.”

A few other groups and individuals claimed responsibility for the flags.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (dih BLAH’-zee-oh) said a few weeks ago that the security breach involving the changing of flags at the Brooklyn Bridge last week is “a wake-up call.”

De Blasio said Monday police have increased security on all the city’s bridges.

Police believe four or five people climbed the bridge’s two towers on July 22 and replaced the giant Americanflags with white ones.

The operation involved disabling a pair of spotlights and appears carefully planned. The culprits remain at large, and their motives are unknown.

De Blasio was in Italy during the security failure at one of the city’s most famous landmarks. He says in his first comments about it he’s “absolutely concerned.”

Some people fear a group with more sinister motives could penetrate the bridge’s security.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.