New York City activists unveiled a bust of transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson in Christopher Park this week without receiving permission from the city.
According to LGBTQ Nation, the Johnson statue is now the only statue of a transgender person within city park limits. The bust was put up near Stonewall Inn, the site of the initial spark of 1969 riots by demonstrators in favor of gay liberation and LGBT rights.
“At a time when we are taking down statues, I think it is just as important to collectively consider what is put up in public spaces, the process that is used to erect statues and reimagine the function of monumental work,” sculptor Jesse Pollotta told LGBTQ Nation.
Johnson, a drag queen, founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries with Sylvia Rivera back in 1972.
“History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities,” Johnson says in a quote featured on the monument.
New York City initially approved plans of statues to Johnson and Rivera in 2019.
“Transgender and non-binary communities are reeling from violent and discriminatory attacks across the country,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at the time. “Here in New York City, we are sending a clear message: we see you for who you are, we celebrate you, and we will protect you.”
But activists have since become impatient with the approval process, and are now taking matters into their own hands.
“The statue didn’t receive a permit,” activist Eli Erlick told Gothamist. “The NYC Parks permitting system is a long, subjective process. Committees have historically used permitting to deny statues of people of color, women, and queer people, leaving the trans community without any representation.”
The activist also said that they hoped the city would recognize the importance of commemorating black trans leaders and not remove the statue.
The statue comes at a time when other historical statues in the city have come under attack by protestors and city officials.
Just this past April, a monument to the USS Maine, the warship that exploded killing 266 American sailors, was targeted by left-wing activists. They spray-painted the monument and raised the trans flag over it according to the Post Millennial.
In Manhattan, a statue of Christopher Columbus was defaced as well. The phrase ‘F**k Columbus was spray painted on the base of the monument to the renowned explorer.
The statue of president, soldier, and explorer Teddy Roosevelt is slated to be removed from in front of New York’s Museum of Natural History — thanks to a unanimous vote from the city’s Public Design Commission this summer.
An estimate of at least 183 historic markers, monuments, and statues have been vandalized and taken down across the country following the George Floyd protests.
The New York City Public Design Commission did not respond to request for comment.
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