Fact Check

Leftist Activists Demand New York Museum Take Down Statue of 'Racist' Theodore Roosevelt?

Clashes with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville did not inspire "leftists" to demand the removal of a statue of Theodore Roosevelt in New York City.

Published Aug. 16, 2017

 (Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com)
Image Via Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com
After "demanding that southern states take down statues of Confederate figures, the activist Left is now targeting" a New York City statue of President Teddy Roosevelt.
What's True

In October 2016, indigenous rights activists and artists protested several conditions at a New York City museum, among them a statue of President Teddy Roosevelt.

What's False

The protest occurred well before August 2017 clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia and involved separate groups; the "Monday" referenced was 10 October 2016, not 14 August 2017.

On 15 August 2017, DailyWire.com published an article reporting that the "activist Left" was demanding that a statue of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, be removed from a New York City museum:

Social justice warriors are never satisfied. If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. After demanding that southern states take down statues of Confederate figures, the activist Left is now targeting an iconic American president featured on Mount Rushmore.

On Monday, more than 200 SJW zealots held a protest inside the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to take down the supposedly “racist” statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt. The protest’s organizers, NYC Stands with Standing Rock and Decolonize This Place, also called for Columbus Day to be renamed Indigenous People’s Day.

“A stark embodiment of the white supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted,” pontificated the group of protesters in a statement. “The statue is seen as an affront to all who pass it on entering the museum, but especially to African and Native Americans.”

The article's use of the words "after" and "now" drew an undeniable parallel between the "Unite the Right" protest of 12 August 2017 and the events described. It reported that protesters "purportedly planned the event three weeks in advance in order to make the bizarre show of leftist rage as special as possible," referencing an undated Monday. It linked to a Guardian piece which also stated that a protest occurred on "Monday":

More than 200 people cheered outside the museum as activists covered the statue of Roosevelt on horseback flanked by an African American and Native American on either side and demanded it be ultimately removed.

Activists from the groups NYC Stands with Standing Rock and Decolonize This Place organized the protest to draw attention to the museum’s encouragement of racist tropes, and implored New York City to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.

However, nowhere in the Daily Wire piece was any indication that the source material was dated 11 October 2016, making its implication that such protests were a part of or after 12 August 2017 clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia extremely misleading.

Right above the Guardian item's dateline is a note indicating that the piece was nearly a year old as of August 2017:

Although it is possible Daily Wire overlooked the Guardian article's date, it added an image taken from Twitter dated 10 October 2016:

The "zealots" mentioned in the 15 August 2017 Daily Wire item were described in other reports as representatives of a group called "Decolonize This Place," a movement that appears to be completely separate from antifa activists:

The collective behind the alternative tour, Decolonize This Place, grew out of the academic and artistic collaborations that began percolating during Occupy Wall Street five years ago. Their museum takeover was a symbolic protest against the gentrification and displacement unfolding just outside the marble walls, in poor communities of color of the surrounding city that are excluded from such elite cultural spheres.

The action was incubated in Artists Space in Soho, a freewheeling downtown studio that cultivates innovative contemporary art projects. During their three-month “takeover” at Artists Space, Decolonize is hosting meetings, performances and film screenings, along with art builds, in which activists gather to create protest signs, paint banners, and construct other DIY productions focused on gentrification, global labor activism, Palestinian resistance, and movements for indigenous rights around the world.

October 2016 news articles reported that the indigenous rights group protested for removal of the statue, modification of exhibits in the American Museum of Natural History, and the return of items they believed were culturally significant artifacts:

Four hundred indigenous rights activists occupied the American Museum of Natural History Monday afternoon in protest of Columbus Day and museum exhibitions they consider to be demeaning to indigenous peoples.

The protest, which featured a rally on the museum steps, a "de-colonization" tour, and the draping of a large parachute over an equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, was organized by the artist activist group Decolonize This Place in collaboration with a number of community groups, including NYC Stands with Standing Rock.

Activists made three major demands of the museum: Remove the Roosevelt Statue, modify exhibits related to indigenous peoples and return various indigenous artifacts to the descendants of those to whom they belonged. They also called on the city to rename Columbus Day as "Indigenous People's Day."

Videos of the protest show protesters carrying a large "Abolish White Supremacy" banner, and it was labeled as an "expansive action of that included member of Black Lives Matter, Palestinians, Italians and others":

The October 2016 demonstration was not the first of its sort, nor did it spring from actions to remove Confederate monuments in American cities. In October 2012, the New York Post reported that a Manhattan man had been on a years-long quest to had the statue removed:

This Teddy is too much to bear.

So says Upper West Sider Mike Edison, who’s on a decade-long crusade to convince the city and the American Museum of Natural History to remove a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt that he says is racist.

“When you walk into the museum it’s the first thing you see — and it smacks of white entitlement and exploitation,” charged Edison, 63, who recently launched an online petition tarnishing the bronze. “It’s indicative of ‘the white man’s burden.’ ”

The 10-foot icon, entitled “Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt,” was sculpted by James Earle Fraser in 1939. It depicts the Rough Rider proudly astride his steed, flanked by a bare chested African and Native American.

No action occurred between the 10 October 2016 "Decolonize This Place" protest at the American Museum of Natural History and the 15 August 2017 publication of the Daily Wire's article, except for unrelated clashes over the 12 August 2017 "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It is true that a separate group of indigenous activists and artists protested for the removal of a statue of Teddy Roosevelt in October 2016, but those demonstrators had nothing to do with August 2017 protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Buiso, Gary.   "Museum Statue Racist: Foe."     New York Post.   28 October 2012.

Chen, Michelle.   "Some of the Exhibits at the Museum of Natural History Are… Not… Good…."     The Nation.   19 October 2016.

Krisel, Brendan.   "Anti-Columbus Day Protesters Cover Teddy Roosevelt Statue At Natural History Museum."     Patch.   11 October 2016.

Melgarejo, Joshel.   "Indigenous Rights Activists Demand 'De-Colonization' Of Natural History Museum."     Gothamist.   11 October 2016.

Pinto, Nick.   "In Dishonor of Columbus Day, Protesters Shroud Obscenely Racist Statue at AMNH."     Village Voice.   11 October 2016.

Qazvini, Michael.   "Leftist Activists Demand New York Museum Take Down Statue of ‘Racist’ Theodore Roosevelt."     Daily Wire.   15 August 2017.

Sidahmed, Mazin.   "Take Down 'Racist' Theodore Roosevelt Statue, Activists Tell New York Museum."     The Guardian.   11 October 2016.

Decolonize This Place.   "Rename The Day – Remove The Statue – Decolonize This Museum."     10 October 2016.

YouTube/Aaron Burr Society.   "Decolonize The American Museum Of Natural History NYC."     10 October 2016.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.