Protesters rally to save NYC Museum's Roosevelt statue

Protesters rally to save NYC’s Museum of Natural History’s Teddy Roosevelt statue as de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo back its removal

  • Rally organised by the New York Young Republican Club called for statue to stay  
  • New York’s Museum of Natural History said statue of Roosevelt is to be removed
  • NYC mayor Bill de Blasio and governor Andrew Cuomo support statue’s removal

More than 150 protesters gathered outside of New York’s Museum of Natural History yesterday in an effort to save a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt from being removed.

During the hour-long demonstration speakers made the case for keeping the bronze effigy of Roosevelt firmly in its place at the Museum’s entrance, where it has stood since 1940.

The museum had announced its plans to remove the statue of the former president last week after gaining approval from Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City.

The statue features Roosevelt being flanked by a Native American man and an African man while riding on horse back, suggesting they are ‘subjugated and racially inferior’, de Blasio said in a statement.

A rally lead by the New York Young Republican Club calls for the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt to remain in place on June 28, 2020 in New York City

Ellen V. Futter, the museum’s president, told the publication that the removal was more about the statues ‘hierarchical composition’ than a reflection on Roosevelt.   

Gavin Wax, president of the New York Young Republicans Club, responsible for the demonstration told the New York Post:’This statue is of a proud American. Was he perfect? No. No one was perfect… he did a lot for this country.

‘We’re here today because we’ve bettered ourselves as a society and we continue to better ourselves as a society. 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.’

The group say they do not think the statue should be removed as it would leave society ‘doomed to repeat history’

Counter protesters arrived shortly after carrying ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs 

The American Museum of Natural History has requested that the City of New York and Mayor Bill de Blasio remove the statue as part of a movement to remove racist monuments

The group held signs that read ‘keep Roosevelt, fire De Blasio’ and left red and white flowers at the monument.

David Marcus, an organizer of the rally told crowds: ‘We are fighting over the last will and testament of the United States.’

Barricades erected around the monument kept protesters to a confined area as speakers told the crowd not to ‘erase history’.

Barricades erected around the monument kept protesters to a confined area as speakers told the crowd not to ‘erase history’

The group held signs that read ‘keep Roosevelt, fire De Blasio’ and left red and white flowers at the monument

View of the President Theodore Roosevelt statue outside The American Museum of Natural History on June 23, 2020 in New York City

Theodore Roosevelt and his bronze statue 

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909.

The Republican, whose face is depicted on Mount Rushmore alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, is credited with laying the groundwork for the modern Democratic party.

His progressive policies leveled the playing field between rich and poor, and this mantle would be carried forward in the modern liberalism of his cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency.

Teddy Roosevelt called himself a ‘new nationalist,’ and believed strongly in egalitarianism.

The equestrian statue of the 33rd governor of New York outside the American Museum of Natural History was erected in 1939.

Roosevelt had developed a ‘cowboy’ image and that of a brave, masculine warrior during his presidency.

He was a great conservationist, setting up America’s first National Parks, and also a foreign policy interventionist who proudly built up the US Navy with the Great White Fleet.

It is through this context that we can see Roosevelt depicted as the bold colonialist explorer, guided through the wilderness by one figure representing Native America and the other, Africa. 

A group of counter-protesters arrived soon after, organised by a black Evangelical group from Georgia, to support the removal of the statue which they called ‘glorified colonialism’.

Counter protesters carried ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs and also had speakers make their argument for the removal of the statue. 

The statue has long been a contentious point and was vandalized in 2017 when protesters splashed red liquid on the statue’s base to represent blood and published a statement calling for its removal as an emblem of ‘patriarchy, white supremacy and settler-colonialism.’ 

Following this the museum even created an exhibition to explain its decision to keep the statue that the public has ‘long found disturbing’, despite what it called ‘Roosevelt’s troubling views on race’.

In the exhibition last year, the museum acknowledged its ‘imperfect history’.

Futter said the museum objects to the statue but not to Roosevelt, a pioneering conservationist whose father was a founding member of the institution and who served as New York’s governor before becoming the 26th president.

Ms Futter, the museum’s president, said in a statement: ‘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.

‘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.

‘Simply put, the time has come to move it.’ 

While de Blasio’s statement read: ‘The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts Black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior.

‘The City supports the Museum’s request. It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.’ 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has also backed the decision to remove the statue. 

Theodore Roosevelt IV, a great-grandson of the president and museum trustee, claims: ‘The composition of the Equestrian Statue does not reflect Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. It is time to move the statue and move forward.’ 

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