ARTNews, October 14, 2019
As the sun began to set on Monday, hundreds of protestors took to the stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Many carried with them signs that mentioned Palestine, Kashmir, Standing Rock, and elsewhere, and many more brought banners condemning various forms of racism and out-of-control capitalism.
The huge crowd of demonstrators were there as part of an action held on the occasion of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the holiday that began as a protest against Columbus Day in the United States some 30 years ago. Activists have used it to celebrate the indigenous peoples who preceded Columbus’s arrival in North America and who were subjugated after it. The action was part of an event led by the group Decolonize This Place (the group that staged the highly visible recent protests at the Whitney), in collaboration with a number of other organizations, that throughout the afternoon involved a tour of New York sites related to histories of colonialism and displacement.
Things had kicked off earlier in the day at the American Museum of Natural History, where there is a monument to former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, with a Native American man and a man of African descent at his sides. In a flyer handed out at the event, activists called Roosevelt “an imperialist” and “an eugenicist.” Also visited by the protesters as part of the day were the former location of Seneca Village, a slice of Central Park from which the Lenape people and, later, a black community were displaced; the Great Lawn, a picturesque section of the park from which soaring skyscrapers and other symbols of gentrification are visible; and Cleopatra’s Needle, a 12th-century Egyptian obelisk brought to New York in the 19th century at the command of a U.S. naval officer.