Ralliers Call for Teddy Roosevelt Statue To Be Torn Down

Bernardo Issel at a rally urging the city to remove the Teddy Roosevelt statue.

By Carol Tannenhauser

A group of about 100 people rallied outside the Museum of Natural History on Monday to call for the city to remove the statue there of Teddy Roosevelt and to rename Columbus Day “Indigenous People’s Day”. The group is called “Decolonize This Place”.

“Essentially it’s people concerned with Columbus and European colonialism in The United States and how it relates to the exhibits inside and outside the museum, including the statue of Teddy Roosevelt,” said Bernardo Issel, one of the people who attended the rally.

A mayoral commission is now considering how to deal with statues that could be considered “symbols of hate.” The Decolonize group wants the commission to remove the one of Teddy Roosevelt. In a letter to the museum trustees, City Council and mayor, they explained why:

“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.”

A flyer for the event shows a crane hoisting Roosevelt from his perch. The group also wants the museum to “decolonize” its exhibits. While the group supports the museum’s decision to change the Northwest Coast Hall, it wants it to remove “the false and degrading representations in the rest of the culture halls” too.

Asked about the protest, a spokesperson for the mayor forwarded his comments about the commission from Monday.

“Nothing is happening with any of the statues in question. They are statues related to people of all different backgrounds, all different historical eras. Nothing’s happening with any it in the short term. We have a commission of really respected people that are going to look at this issue and offer suggestions about how we move forward as a city.”

Photos by Carol Tannenhauser.

NEWS | 72 comments | permalink
    1. robert says:

      This will go on and on as its an election year. Where is the coverage of the Japanese Americans wanting to remove the Roosevelt Island name, as FDR interned Japanese Americans in WWII. Do we after anything JFK or MLK as they were serial cheaters their wives. There are anti military/anti police members of the city council and NYS legislature that fell that none of them should be celebrated. For example they naming of a school or other building after a fallen officer or soldier. What about post offices named after them by congress.

      No one is prefect and history usually remembers mostly the “good parts”, but we should not cherry pick parts of history. There has to be some way to balance things in some sort of display. If the name of every school, civic building

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        you claim there are members of the NY City Council and NY State Legislature who are against the naming of any street, school, building after any police officer or fallen soldier.

        that is a questionable claim, and sounds exaggerated. who are these members? what naming bills have they voted against?

        • robert says:

          Lot at the voting records of your congressman re3 PO’s as they are federal buildings. City Council Baron and others, look at the Inrtos they have submitted about military recruitment on CUNY campus or the regulations put in place to keep the numbers of Black and Latino youth “officially” disciplined by the school system. Shock of shockers a school system with 95% non white enrollment is not going to have police interactions at the same level of the city wide population.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            you didn’t answer my question, instead you changed the subject to military recruitment and disciplining of public school students.

            Apparently these issues are all intermingled in your mind.

            • robert says:

              I can only gather you have not followed this issue
              I mention Barron as an example, he has used
              the military recruiters and his rabid anti police biases as the reasons for his intro’s and his votes in the city council and now in Albany.

      • Hillary says:

        MLK was also against gay marriage, which is why all monuments to this bigoted homophobe must be removed. And FDR was categorically racist in his imprisonment of Japanese Americans, so bye-bye FDR Park on Roosevelt Island (which itself needs to be renamed), and the FDR Drive should just become East Drive. Get Woke, New Yorkers!!

    2. Z says:

      These people are doing a great job of diluting the message and reasoning for taking down Confederate statues.

      I can not believe they are validating Trump’s insane claim that after the Confederate statues are taken down, they are going to go after presidents.

      Trying to remove the statue in front of the Museum of Natural History of the President who was the main driving force behind the preservation of our natural landscape, is so stupid.

      • Steven says:

        …which would seem to imply that Trump’s claim was not insane. So why do you refer to it that way?

      • JR says:

        And probably the most progressive and accomplished American president ever.

      • Effy says:

        Guess he wasn’t “insane”. Maybe just better informed.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        well said. it plays into the hands of the right wingers.

        TR was an imperialist but he also had a lot of good things about him… including being ahead of the curve for white political leaders on race issues.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          by “well said”, i was referring to Z’s original comment above.

          Trump’s claim IS insane, and is an excuse to keep the various federal and state monuments to the Confederacy. There will be no renaming of TR Park, etc.

          • Reality Check says:

            Um, people are doing exactly what he said they would. That doesn’t make it insane; it makes it accurate.

        • EricaC says:

          The slippery slope argument may or may not be true, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t do something wrong – glorify traitors – just because someone might say that you also shouldn’t do something else.

          In other words, yes, people who are offended by things that are less universally offensive than statues commemorating people for treason and defending slavery, erected in support of a reign of lynching and generalized terror, but one might rationally say that treasonous defenders of slavery should be removed but non-treasonous people who were racists but are not celebrated for their racism should not be.

    3. Zeus says:

      Just a reminder to those who may not know this fact:
      Native Americans had slaves of their own.
      Even during the trail of tears, the natives took with them their slaves.
      America is what it is because of the settlers who made it.
      Changing history is a thing of folly.
      One can not change history, only history can do it.
      Change the present, to have a better future.
      Changing the past will do nothing.
      The past is the past, like it or not.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        in response to Zeus’s statement that “America is what it is because of the settlers who made it.”

        slaves were not “settlers”, and African-American slaves had more to do with building america economically than any other group. much of capital accumulation, including in the north, was based on cotton.

        • Zeus says:

          Bruce old friend,
          I see you are still active here. Good for you.
          Of course the slaves were not settlers, but they were here, and their children are here as well.
          Removing names, statues, etc. from public display will do nothing to bring us together.
          Jimmy Carter is. A good guy, right?
          He is from Georgia . Could be that in the past his family had slaves Does this mean he should be taken out of history books?
          Where does this end?
          You are making Trump look like a prophet.
          Stop and smell the stench brought on last November, and work in a positive way to reverse it in 2020, other wise, he’s a show in for four more years.

          • David says:

            Correction! The “stench” you speak of started in 2008, and polluted the air for eight dreadful years. This past November’s election brought a refreshing breeze, which will hopefully replace that God awful stench!

    4. Carlos says:

      Please, please, please stop these people. I am an UWS liberal Democrat. I embrace diversity and despise the alt-right. And these people are embarrassing and insulting me. They are playing right into Trump’s hands – taking what is potentially a legitimate issue, sensationalizing it and making all anti-Trump people look like whining morons.

      Save your protesting for legitimate issues like how living human beings are actually being treated today, health care, guns, etc. If a statue of Teddy Roosevelt is really bothering someone and they think protesting it is the best use of their time, they need to revisit their priorities.

      These people constantly in need of a cause to protest get me almost as angry as Trump does.

      • Barry says:

        Well said. I agree with you completely.

      • robert says:

        Sorry but they are not “playing into” Trumps hands.
        They are just showing how most UWS folks have felt for years. With the violence prone rebirth of the 60’s through Antifa etc they have become embolden.

        I just love that the people that claim to be for women’s rights, no if and buts, rightfully went after Bill O’Rerilly et al but you can hear crickets about Weinstein

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          Robert says:

          “i just love that the people that claim to be for women’s rights, no if and buts, rightfully went after Bill O’Rerilly et al but you can hear crickets about Weinstein”

          WTF are you talking about? that has no relationship to reality at all.

          • robert says:

            Oh yes there is
            O’relliy was roasted, rightly so, for his actions by the lib’s/Hollywood and the media in general. Action was taken against him and the media made him toast.
            Weinstein has basically skated until the New Yorker story that broke last night. Elected’s and politically active groups have been quite silent. They have put out the standard “shocked to find there was gambling going on here” press release. But the crickets. With O’reilly there were march’s on Fox news’s HQ. Opeds up the yigyag and repeated daily commentary on NBC & MSNBC.
            Both of which were offered the Westsin story and killed it. It ended up in the New Yorker Others were threaten with law suits etc

        • lynn says:

          Weinstein isn’t a political figure or in the business of dealing with political figures. He’s been fired from his own company and there is plenty being said about him. Were you expecting to see a discussion about it here? Check the social media sites.

          • EricaC says:

            The reason people have to go on and on about O’Reilly is because his supporters continued to support him. Do you hear anyone supporting Weinstein?

          • Zeus says:

            He has nothing to do with politics?
            He is a huge contributor to the Democratic Party, on first name base with Hillary and Obama.
            A sleaze bag of the first grade, and the left is mute.

          • robert says:

            “Wasn’t a political figure”
            He is most definatly a political figure, yes he is not elected, but he has long been a bundler for liberal Dem’s and their pet political causes. Getting millions to be given by those he did biz with around the country. He has now fled the country to get “therapy” for his sex issues. Do you think that O’reilly could have said he needed therapy to fix things?

      • Jen says:

        I feel the same way. And I’m also an UWS democrat.
        Dems need to wake up and address more serious issues than creating the noise, stupid noise really. And we are surprised why Trump won? And Hillary is writing the blame game book?

        Again, I’m getting embarrassed of some parts of the party I’m affiliated with.

      • W 67th St says:

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    5. GG says:

      Have these people NOT seen “Night at the Museum”?

      Seriously though, WTF?!? These people should be ashamed of themselves. And with so many legitimate social and political problems in our world today…this is what they focus on? Puh-leeze. Do these people really think they can white wash history? It happened people….deal with it…learn from it. That’s the point.

    6. Lisa says:

      The outrage culture is out of control.

    7. Rob G. says:

      I don’t think there’s a nation on earth where blood and subjugation isn’t part of its its history. Ours is no different. But there are ways to acknowledge the failings of our leaders and the suffering of others without destroying our soul and our culture. Performing a collective lobotomy on us, which is what these silly people wish to do, will accomplish nothing.

    8. RV says:

      This event was part of a larger alternative decolonial tour of the museum (there was one last year too), organized/sponsored by a number of community organizations around the city.

      Roosevelt’s conservationism was colonialist and racist. The museum reflects that and Indigenous peoples have protested that from day one (this is not a new issue).

      In the words of Teddy: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are. And I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

      A more complete article can be found here: https://hyperallergic.com/404749/2nd-annual-anti-columbus-day-tour-american-museum-of-natural-history/

    9. Smithe says:

      Can we maybe focus on the present instead of dwelling on the past? While these people are out there protesting against inanimate objects there are real people being abused TODAY that could use your help.

    10. Julia says:

      The left’s idiocy is going to get Trump a second term, I guarantee it.

    11. Jean says:

      Their choice. Love it or leave it. Still the best country on earth.
      There are plenty of other countries FAR worse, and some who still believe in slavery, abusing women ( genital mutilation, forced marriages, child trafficking, etc. ) and no rights.
      My opinion ( no one can take THAT away from me in this country ), no one is forcing these folks to remain here.

    12. Scott says:

      So they’re only in favor of open borders for Central Americans? Wasn’t Columbus exercising his own open borders privilege?

    13. Chris says:

      The whole museum would have to be taken down then we can build a park there and make it a sake space.

    14. dj says:

      If they really want to ‘decolonize’ the museum, they can’t just stop with the statue of TR, they’ll need to take the entire museum down. After all, ‘indigenous peoples’ didn’t build museums. Or much of anything, for that matter.

      I for one am very glad that Europeans came to the New World and colonized it. I’ve never really celebrated Columbus Day before, but all these protests have got me thinking. I look forward to it next year.

    15. harlemresident says:

      I am a recent immigrant (been here 15 yrs) in the US. My family comes from South Asia. I have a young child who grew up loving the Natural History Museum and everything in it, including that statue. I ask everyone to take a step back and focus on important issues that need to be addressed rather than focus on statues, etc. All countries have “heroes” and “leaders” from history with a somewhat tainted past. We are not celebrating everything about their past when we have a statue of them. Is there any historical figure with a completely clean past. We remember and want to acknowledge these individuals for something they did which warrants some form of remembrance. Slavery and oppression of people have occurred all over the world (and sadly, continues in certain parts of Middle East, Africa and Asia). Why not focus our efforts to try to get rid of the misery that exists. And focus on the battles at hand (health care for all…).
      The statue of Teddy commemorates the good that he did rather than the bad (or questionable).
      Maybe I’m being naive in thinking that we can move forward to focus on more important matters right now.

    16. tommy says:

      I want Columbus Ave renamed Indigenous People Ave and I want it right now

    17. Big Earl says:

      These people are another prime example of the wussification of America. Everyone take a step back and breathe.

    18. MMiguelito says:

      It’s 1938 Germany all over again.
      When do the book burnings begin?
      This is what happens when you have a “do nothing”, Anti-law & order, Communist city govt in place.
      Is it any wonder why people are leaving this city by the hundreds of thousands?
      And it’s going to get worse.

    19. 47yrUWSider says:

      I am calling for Columbia University to immediately rename itself Indigenia – but they won’t do that because their brand is too prestigious.

    20. UWS Craig says:

      Instead of tearing down statues, let us erect a statue in honor of Barack Obama, who is our first multi-racial President though some claim Warren G. Harding may have been bi-racial, too.
      I do not support erecting a statue in honor of Warren G. Harding. Thankfully, there are no Harding statues in New York as they would be a symbol of hate that must be destroyed.

    21. Sue says:

      Good god let it go.

    22. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      Assuming the far Left gets its way and removes all the statues, I wonder what is slated next for destruction. Offensive paintings, books, music? No doubt some members of this movement would like to institute full blown censorship too.

    23. 92nd Street says:

      I love that statue. It represents one of the great figures who started the National Parks program. It also features two men walking beside Teddy; a Native American and an African American. For a diverse City like New York it leans toward representing all of us not just a President. I stand with the Museum in it’s defense of this proud sculpture.

    24. Wijmlet says:

      “No one is prefect”

    25. Karen Bruno says:

      President Kennedy was a womanizer, so you better rename Kennedy Airport! Idiots..all of them! He who has no sin should cast the first stone!

    26. Pedestrian says:

      TDR was a man ahead of his time in many ways….a trust buster; opposed special corporations interests; began the national park system; fraught against police and political corruption in NYC and NYS. He had African American advisers when he was governor of NYS and attempted to integrate the WH in 1901 when such a move was almost incendiary. He tried to do the right thing as he saw it. Was he perfect? No but he was head and shoulders above most. If we erased the name of every person who was not perfect from our books the pages would be blank. No one and I do mean no one is perfect. It is a matter of judgement.

      This kind of protest and demand does damage to our progressive causes. It splinters our energies and muddies the waters. I wish people exercised more judgment.

    27. Joe says:

      Theodore Roosevelt? Christopher Columbus? What about FDR? In the official blog of his presidential library, it states that in 1936 he vetoed an anti-lynching bill!!!

      During WWII he incarcerated more than 120,000 Japanese/Americans. The bill that apologized to their ancestors said that they were never a threat – the reason for their imprisonment was racism!

    28. Judith Kass says:

      The “let’s tear down this horrible statue” movement has gone too far. Columbus discovered America, Teddy Roosevelt killed animals and added them to the natural history museum’s collection started by his father, Lincoln went to bed every night, as Michelle Obama said, “in a house built by slaves.” Should we tear down the White House? The things we object to have meanings other than those narrow-minded, history misunderstanding zealots ascribe to them. Let’s not destroy our history.

    29. MC Vander Wal says:

      It feels now that however well intentioned, the whole erasing of the American past is becoming Orwellian. The country is indeed rooted in racism and sexism: freedom and the vote were given to white male landowners. The action going forward here is not to right wrongs through the tearing down of statues (Teddy Roosevelt, for goodness sake?) but to put energy, thought and protest into current incarnations of injustice and violence in much more effective ways. This is just Noise and Distraction.

    30. F Ames says:

      Let us remember we would not have the museum of natural history if it were not for Teddy Roosevelt
      AND we can thank him for preserving the Grand Canyon and many of the incredible western US areas AND
      for saving the Adirondack State Park
      Who are these uneducated people and WHY are
      They allowed to demonstrate for such a ridiculous

    31. David Shapiro says:

      Just a bunch of chronic malcontents and anarchists who are dedicated to condemning American traditions and historical figures. This is their “raison d’etre” and it is best not to give them the attention they so desperately crave.

    32. Alline says:

      I find it regrettable that this demonstration has received media attention.

    33. susan says:

      This reminds me of the annilation of the Chinese culture by Maoists in an effort to purify their history. Perhaps a better approach is to educate young people and put up some monuments to male and female heroes who have been overlooked by history.

    34. Dorian says:

      Mount Rushmore isn’t going to be very impressive with only one president.

    35. Watto says:

      Don’t you think it’s time to concern yourselves with real issues happening today! Like a president with his ability to press the nuclear button, N. Korea, Cyber attacks by Russia, the Iran Nuclear Agreement, health care, etc., etc. Stop with the damned statues!!!!!!

    36. Christina says:

      Ahhh Why don’t we just tear down all statues and be done with it! SMH!

    37. BJK says:

      Keep it up, folks. Rallies, demonstrations and similar ruckus around fabricated issues like this are a good part of why Trump got elected.

    38. Howard Charles Yourow, S.J.D. says:

      PC hysteria seeks to run wild . . .

    39. Peter Brandt says:

      What’s next? Give back America to the native Americans.

      AT some point we have to acknowledge EVERYONE was more cruel back in history, but it will always be part of our history. You can’t change what was. Teddy did a lot of good things as well and should be celebrated for that.