Activists-turned-vandals defaced a statue honoring President Theodore Roosevelt outside New York’s American Museum of Natural History on Thursday, splattering red paint on the monument over concerns that it embodied “white supremacy” and “settler-colonialism.”
According to police, the incident took place in the early morning hours between 3:00 am and 7:00 am, and while the culprits have not yet been identified, investigators plan to scour through surveillance footage for answers.
“There is no cause for doing things like this in this society where everybody is free to express their opinion, but not in this way,” New York resident Hans Gesell, 82, told the New York Post.
Gesell noted that while he did not personally care for Roosevelt or his policies, “[vandalism] is the opposite of the way you express yourself. The way to express yourself is you vote. You want to express your opinion – you vote.”
The statue, which was created by James Earle Fraser and erected in 1939, shows Roosevelt standing next to an indigenous African and an American Indian. A group called the Monument Removal Brigade copped to the attack and claimed that the “real damage… lies with patriarchy, white supremacy, and settler-colonialism embodied by the statue.”
Another group called Decolonize This Place protested the statue earlier this month and demanded its removal.
“Flanked by figures that appear to be Native and African stereotypes in a position of subservience, the statue is a stark embodiment of the white patrician supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted and is an affront to all who enter the museum,” the group said in a statement.
“Statuary is not forever and a monument that glorifies racial and gender hierarchies should be retired from public view.”
The museum has bowed to the pressure, recently noting that “the statue needs to be addressed.”
“Several factors will figure into determining the exact approach,” the museum said in a statement. “The Museum is conducting its own research and development process, but the decision on how to address the statue is not solely in the Museum’s control. The statue sits on New York City park land and as such is owned and managed by the City.”