The New York City Museum of Natural History has announced that it will remove the statue of former US President Theodore Roosevelt from its main entrance. The announcement came amid anti-racism protests in the United States and around the world since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in police custody, on May 25 in the US city of Minneapolis.
The statue shows Roosevelt on a horse with a native American and an African by his side. It stands out on a pedestal in front of the main entrance to the museum, which faces Central Park.
In reaction, President Donald Trump said on Monday that he opposed the withdrawal. “Ridiculous, don’t do that,” he tweeted.
Roosevelt, a Republican like Trump, was president of the United States between 1901 and 1909. Known for his exuberant and bold stance, he carried out antitrust and conservationist reforms and the so-called “Square Deal” agreement and, say critics, took an interventionist approach to foreign policy, which included projecting his nation’s naval power around the world.
Many critics say the Roosevelt statue symbolizes racial discrimination and colonial expansion.
Also on Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city agreed with the museum’s request to remove the statue because it “portrays black and indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior”.
In ongoing anti-racism demonstrations, protesters from the United States and around the globe have been demanding that authorities topple monuments that honor pro-slavery figures from the Confederates and architects from European colonies.
“To put it simply, it’s time to take it out,” museum president Ellen Futter told The New York Times.
She explained that the entity’s decision was based on the statue itself, as well as on its “hierarchical composition”, and not on Roosevelt, and that the museum continues to honor him as a “pioneering conservationist”.
Roosevelt’s face is also one of four presidents – he, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln – who are engraved on 18-meter-high granite sculptures at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.
Trump criticizes anti-racism protests, saying the protesters have been misbehaving.
“The rampant left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments – our beautiful monuments -, tear down our statues and punish, cancel and pursue anyone who does not submit to his demands for absolute and total control. We are not subjecting ourselves” , he told supporters at a rally last week.