Watch CBS News

Teddy Roosevelt Statue Vandalized Outside Museum Of Natural History

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A statue of Teddy Roosevelt outside the American Museum of Natural History has been vandalized.

A substance described by police as fake blood was splattered on the base of the monument at the museum entrance on Central Park West and 79th Street sometime between 4 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

It was also used to paint red slash marks through the words "explorer," "scientist," "conservationist" and "naturalist" on one side of the marble wall behind the statue, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

No words were written on the statue.

Crews quickly started to clean up the statue.

Detectives were on the scene including the NYPD's anti-terrorism chief, John Miller, but they offered no details about the people who did it or the reasons for desecrating the statue, which was dedicated in 1936.

An NYPD camera near the scene caught the whole thing and sources said it's giving police a head start in trying to figure out who the culprits are, Kramer reported.

The 10-foot tall bronze sculpture depicts the former New York governor and 26th president on horseback flanked by African and Native American men.

"To see the colonialist white leader on horseback above a Native American and above an African has been a sensitive depiction for some time," T.H. Williams, who is an art historian, told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman.

He believes a historical plaque would help it be understood "rather than silenced."

Some have been demanding the statue's removal for months, deeming it racist.

"We just don't think this is the way to have the conversation," a museum spokesperson said, directing people to a city website launched Wednesday that lets the public weigh in on which statues should stay, be removed, be relocated or have signs or other educational markers.

"Vandalism has no place in the thoughtful conversation the city is having on our monuments and markers," a spokesperson for the mayor said.

On the steps of City Hall, GOP mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis denounced the vandalism.

"I am very upset. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a big Teddy Roosevelt fan and I think that he was one of the greatest elected officials that we have ever had," Malliotakis said, describing Roosevelt as a true reformer who stood up against his own Republican party.

Some people near the museum didn't agree with the vandalism.

"It's kind of disgusting," Michael Colbar of the Upper West Side said. "I feel ashamed when I see it."

"It's a horrible symbol of our time when we are acting out in ways that are uncivil and impolite," said Hans Gesell of Englewood Cliffs.

"I empathize with people who are upset about things, but I don't think chucking paint is the way to do it," one woman said.

"I just think that they should express their protest in a different way," said Matt Menick of Springfield Gardens.

"It's appalling, it's a landmark, it's part of our city, it's part of our history -- however complicated our history may be," one woman said.

Vandals have targeted other monuments in recent months, including the Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park where vandals doused the hands of the statue in blood-red paint and scrawled the words "hate will not be tolerated."

The vandalism comes as a committee reviews controversial statues and plaques across the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio established the monument review commission in the wake of violence in Charlottesville following the decision to remove statues of Confederate generals.

Spokesmen for both the mayor and the museum insisted that vandalism has no place in the public conversation about monuments.

It's not the first time the Roosevelt statue was desecrated, in 1977 six people were arrested for painting slogans on the memorial.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.