Just weeks after activists staged an alternative tour of the American Museum of Natural History to call for its removal, among other things, the equestrian statue of Teddy Roosevelt was vandalized early Thursday morning.
The base of the statue, which is maintained by the city’s Department of Parks and not the AMNH, was splattered with red paint sometime between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., police said, according to the New York Post. Authorities said surveillance footage showed at least one person near the statue during that time.
The Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt has been outside the museum for more than 70 years and has been under fire along with other city monuments that have been deemed offensive. To that end, Mayor Bill de Blasio has created a commission to decide the fate of these statues and monuments.
The commission just released a survey asking for New Yorkers’ input to “help ensure our city’s public spaces remain open and inclusive.” The survey will be open until 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 26.
The commission’s creation comes at a time when such debates are taking place across the country in the wake of the August violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, when white supremacists protested the removal of a Gen. Robert E. Lee statue.
On Columbus Day, Decolonize This Place hosted its second “Anti-Columbus Day Tour” of the AMNH, in which it called on the institution to remove the Roosevelt statue, revamp its exhibits to better represent indigenous peoples and rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.
“The statue for New Yorkers is the most hated statue,” Amin Husain, a founder of the activist group, told Metro ahead of the Oct. 9 tour.
Anne Canty, the museum’s senior vice president for communications and marketing, told Metro earlier this month the AMNH does “think the statue needs to be addressed,” but being that it is on public property, “ultimately, that’s not going to be our decision.”
A representative from Decolonize This Place contacted Metro on Thursday afternoon to comment on the vandalism.
“It’s no surprise that a statue like this – arguable the most-hated monument in the city – would provoke strong public sentiment and that creative actions like this one would be the result,” DTP said in a statement. “At a time when the mayor’s commission is reviewing all monuments of hate, and when the city is spending taxpayer money to protect symbols of white supremacy, this appears to be a very useful expression of protest.”
According to the Tumblr account of an activist group called the Monument Removal Brigade, “We did not make it bleed. It is bloody at its very foundation.” The activists did not call this an act of vandalism, but a “work of public art and an act of applied art criticism” that was done in solidarity with the DTP’s Anti-Columbus Tour.