A loosely knit group of protesters, many of whom support President Donald Trump’s contention to leave statues around the country alone, rallied outside the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday against the museum’s desire to have removed the famed statue of President Theodore Roosevelt, flanked by an Native American and a Black man.
Trump specifically called the proposal to remove the statue “wrong” and urged the public to halt its plans. In response, the Manhattan Young Republican Club massed supporters to show support for keeping the statue where it is on Central Park West and 77th Street in front of the Museum of Natural History.
Counter protestors stood across the street from the supporters of the statue, sometimes getting into contentious arguments that had to be broken up by police officers forcing the groups to stay separated.
The situation quickly devolved into theatrics when one of the pro-statue protesters, who didn’t wear a mask, ridiculed a masked counter-protester for wearing a mask, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic as “fake news.”
“My uncle died from COVID-19, what’s fake about that?” the counter protester shouted back. Cops wound up intervening to separate the pair.
Not every one feels that the statue of the former president should go, and some of those supporters of it staying held signs and were willing to take the heat from counter demonstrators
“It would be one thing if they said they were going to replace it, but look at them, the two men are his cohorts, they are holding guns,” said Nick Chimera of Oyster Bay. “They were with him through the West Indies and Africa. People take a quick glance and say, “ah, he’s on a horse and they are at his side, they don’t look at it carefully. They are obviously his friends, but people are attacking it.”
Alex Weisberg of Manhattan held a poster showing pictures of four dictators, Mao, Lenin, Pol Pot and Hitler saying all four tore down statues and historical icons to change history.
“The history is clear about the monuments,” Weisberg said. “Destroying the monuments is the first step towards totalitarianism. You cannot change history, but you can be a historical modifist [sic] like all these people on my poster, they all tried to destroy monuments. Why did they do it? If you remember in Orwell’s ‘1984,’ it was said who ever controls the past, will control the future. They want to destroy the past the history and historic monuments.”
Najat Madry, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, said destroying and removing monuments is trying to “change history.”
“Every country on this planet has bad parts and good parts of its history and the only way we remember it is by these monuments,” Madry said. “History has a tendency to be deleted or changed. If we don’t have these points of reference to remind us, the good the bad the ugly, then that history will be lost.”
One critic of the Republican group, Richard Rowling, said the group ignores the message the statue sends.
“It clearly shows the two men on either side being subservient, and we should not be presenting them in this fashion because it perpetuates the wrong message to the public about men of color and native Americans. It should go,” Rowling said.
It is unclear when the statue will be removed, who will pay for the removal or where it will go when removed. The statue belongs to the city.