Activists used red paint to deface the base of a bronze Theodore Roosevelt monument at the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan early Thursday morning.
"Roosevelt was an open white supremacist and imperialist who is still lionized by the museum and the city plaza standing in front of it," read an online statement from the prostestors. The museum says the 10-foot statue is in the jurisdiction of the city.
A group called Monument Removal Brigade took accountability for the act. Their website reads:
Now the statue is bleeding. We did not make it bleed. It is bloody at its very foundation.
This is not an act of vandalism. It is a work of public art and an act of applied art criticism.
We have no intent to damage a mere statue.
The true damage lies with patriarchy, white supremacy, and settler-colonialism embodied by the statue.
It is these forms of oppression that must be damaged again and again…until they are damaged out of existence.
The statue depicts Roosevelt astride a horse, flanked by figures of a shirtless African American man and a Native American "chief."
In California, two Father Junipero Serra statues have been similarly vandalized in the last few months. One, in front of the Santa Barbara Mission, was decapitated and splattered with red paint, perhaps to symbolize the blood of indigenous peoples killed during the mission system expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries, suggests The Independent. Another Father Serra statue was vandalized in Mission Hills.
A national debate over public monuments came into focus after the violent Charlottesville, Va., rally of white nationalists and neo-Nazis in support of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The protest turned deadly for a counter-protestor and law enforcement officers in August. The Lee statue is now under a shroud and set to be removed, but its removal has been held up in court.