When San Francisco performance artist Paul Addis was arrested two months ago for prematurely setting Burning Man’s iconic wooden structure ablaze, some mused that Addis may have been trying to simply shake things up at the 21-year-old festival of radical self-expression.
But as Addis, 35, remains behind bars in San Francisco after being nabbed Sunday night for the alleged attempted arson of The City’s historic Grace Cathedral, investigators, “burners” and churchgoers were hard-pressed to come up with a possible motive.
Grace Cathedral spokesperson Brent Andrew said members of the Episcopal congregation had no idea why a man with no known association to the church would try to attack it, but view it as a bizarre and isolated incident.
“I think what people have interpreted from the news that’s been released is that this was one disturbed individual who didn’t pose any serious threat to the cathedral,” he said.
San Francisco police arrested Addis about 10:40 p.m. Sunday on the cathedral steps.
Someone had tipped off police, saying that Addis planned to burn down the church, San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said. Police drove to the cathedral and found him wearing an ammunition belt with small explosives, Mannina said.
Addis remained in jail Monday afternoon in lieu of $488,000 bail, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Susan Fahey said. He is facing five felonies — attempted arson, possession of a device of arson, possession of a destructive device, arson of a church and violation of a court order, she said. He is also facing one misdemeanor charge of altering a firearm.
While Burning Man organizers declined to make a formal statement, festival spokesperson Josh Camire acknowledged that the Burning Man community was abuzz after Addis’ latest trouble.
“It’s pretty sad and it’s obviously a cry for help,” Camire said.