By: Hellen Zaboulani
On Sunday about 150 people showed up outside the Museum of Natural History to protest the removal of President Teddy Roosevelt’s statue. The statue of Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by an African man and a Native American man on foot has been contested for “glorifying colonialism and racism”. The museum recently asked the city for permission to move the statue, and the city approved the request. As reported by the NY Post, the crowd that gathered protested the removal of the statue which has stood at the Upper West Side museum’s entrance since 1940.
“This statue is of a proud American. Was he perfect? No. No one was perfect… he did a lot for this country,” said Gavin Wax, president of the New York Young Republicans Club, which arranged the peaceful protest. “We’re here today because we’ve bettered ourselves as a society and we continue to better ourselves as a society,” Wax said. “But we’ll never be able to do that anymore if we continue to tear down our history and forget our past — and we’ll be doomed to repeat it.”
At the hour-long demonstration, the group held up American flags and signs that read “DEFEND OUR MONUMENTS” and “Can not learn from the past if we erase HISTORY!!”, and heard from speakers.
There were plenty of counter-protesters present as well. A black Evangelical group from Georgia set up speakers, and spoke against the worship of a graven image, or statue of Roosevelt. Another group also rallied against the protesters, holding up signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “End glorifying colonialism.”
Amidst the nationwide uproar over racial inequality and broad initiative to do away with statues that honor Confederate leaders, the museum’s president sought the removal of the above-mentioned statue. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo both approved the removal. President Donald Trump weighed on the removal in a midnight tweet, commenting, “Ridiculous, don’t do it!”
“Over the last few weeks, our museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd,” said Ellen Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “We have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism,” she added. “Simply put, the time has come to move it.”
The statue was previously contested in 2017, and it was vandalized with paint. A de Blasio commission had then evaluated the statue, and had decided that that the statue should stay up.