Around 1,000 People Attend Anti-Columbus Day Tour at American Museum of Natural History

Zachary Small for Hyperallergic, October 8, 2018

“This afternoon, October 8, artists and activists from Decolonize This Place gathered for their third annual Anti-Columbus Day tour of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). A drum circle of protest chants greeted unsuspecting visitors to the museum as a substantial police presence guarded the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt facing Central Park West. Some activists wore traditional Indigenous clothing, while others preferred military fatigues or genderqueer attire that signified their dedication to battle the White orthodoxies of the museum.

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Demonstrators handed out fliers and pamphlets to curious onlookers outside the museum, where one activist told Hyperallergic that she thought this year’s attendance was slightly lower than last year’s, probably because of the public’s general exhaustion with the political climate and the Brett Kavanaugh controversy. Nearby, three counter-demonstrators mounted a weak rebuttal from behind police fences; they held signs that read, “Thank you ICE” and “Jail Blasey Ford.”

Ahead of their action, the coalition released a list of demands via press release, requesting that elected officials remove the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the museum and join a growing number of cities that have renamed the holiday as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. They have also requested that the AMNH establish an independent Decolonization Commission to assess the impact of persistent racist stereotypes and demeaning representation of non-European people on display within the fifth most-visited museum in the country.