The city of Arcata, California, removed a statue of President William McKinley before dawn on Thursday, bowing to the wishes of Native American political activists, and breaking a promise by the city council to notify the public.
McKinley, a Republican, is considered one of the better presidents the U.S. has had. At the time of his assassination by an anarchist in 1901, he was “he was one of the most beloved presidents in American history,” an article in Politico recalled recently. Born in Ohio, he fought for the Union in the Civil War. His presidency is associated with the expansion of American power across the globe and the growth of American industry — including through tariffs.
In 2015, over Ohio’s objections, President Barack Obama renamed Mount McKinley in Alaska — the highest peak in North America at 20,310 feet — to Denali, its Athabascan name (which is what locals had called it anyway).
But radicals in Arcata wanted more. As Breitbart News reported in 2018, they agitated for the removal of the local McKinley statue, arguing that McKinley represented “settler colonialism” and damaged Native American tribes. The Eureka Times-Standard noted that activists said he represented “imperialism, white supremacy and genocide.”
The city council finally relented and voted in February to send the statue to a monument in Ohio. But as the Times-Standard reported Thursday, the city removed the statue without notice. Activists complained that the city’s move meant it still was insensitive to the feelings of Native Americans.
That did not stop activists’ celebrations:
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 pic.twitter.com/ztebnyDY4P
— 7th Generation Fund (@7GenFund) February 28, 2019
There has been a nationwide push for the removal of Confederate statues since a mass shooting by a neo-Nazi who murdered nine worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black congregation in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. However, McKinley fought on the Union side, not for the Confederacy.
In his much-maligned — and mischaracterized — press conference after the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots in 2017, which were triggered by a controversy over a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, President Donald Trump warned that other statues of non-Confederate presidents would be the next to follow: “Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson?” he said.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.