The quest to remove national monuments, sculptures and pieces of history that offend different groups has died down a bit in recent months; fighting over illegal immigration and walls is the latest cause making headlines. Despite this, a small city in California rekindled the argument over art and history versus politics when it removed a statue of a former United States President in the pre-dawn hours last week.
This time it was President William McKinley, and the statue was removed in the night, presumably to limit protest and controversy. Arcata California has been the target of Native American political groups and activists, who want the now-controversial statue of the former president removed (and demolished). The town took action in the dark of night, despite assurances that the public would be notified before any drastic action was taken. Instead, city council had the statue quietly removed before dawn, caving to the demands of Native American activists in the area.
At first glance, this popular American president does not seem controversial. This lifelong Republican fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War. Before his assassination in 1901, he was “one of the most beloved presidents in American history,” according to Politico. The Ohio-born president was responsible for the growth and expansion of the United States and the birth of American industry. Virtually all history books and biographies consider McKinley to be a good and popular president who furthered the cause of the growing nation at a time that leadership was needed. Despite this, his legacy has eroded in recent years, culminating in the removal of a public statue in his honor.
This is not the only time that a monument to President McKinley has been redacted or destroyed. In 2015, Mount McKinley was renamed Denali by then-President Barack Obama. The Alaskan mountain was originally named for the former president. In choosing Denali, the mountain is now known by its original native Athabascan name. The renaming occurred despite protests by the state of Ohio (McKinley’s home state).
Since 2018, radical protestors in Arcata California have been demanding the removal of a local statue dedicated to McKinley. According to the activists, President McKinley represents damage to Native Americans, including “settler colonialism” and “imperialism, white supremacy and genocide.”
The city voted and removed the statue without notice, despite promising to provide the public with details and a timeline. One activist organization, @7GenFund celebrated on Twitter:
“History was made today on Wiyot land! For the first time ever, a presidential monument was removed on the Arcata Plaza.
The statue depicted former U.S president William McKinley who left a genocidal legacy as many presidents before him, & after him have.#ItsAGoodDayToBeIndigenous”
McKinley appears to have been removed because of his status as a United States President, not for any actions of his own. While Confederate statues continue to be targeted for removal because of the alignment or actions of the people they portray, McKinley actually fought against the Confederacy and was by all accounts, a well-liked and a successful leader.
~ Conservative Zone