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Decolonize This Place protest at the Whitney Museum of American Art on Friday, May 10. Photo: Lauren Cavalli.

Activist Arrested During Eighth Week of Protests Against Warren B. Kanders

The NYPD arrested writer and Decolonize This Place (DTP) organizer Yates McKee on the evening of Friday, May 10, based on allegations of “making graffiti, criminal mischief, and possession of a graffiti instrument” while riding in a subway car. McKee was participating in DTP’s eighth week of action against the Whitney Museum of American Art’s vice board chair Warren B. Kanders in the lead-up to the May 17 opening of the Whitney Biennial.

Last week’s action began as a protest against gentrification. A coalition of demonstrators from various groups took the C train from the Euclid Avenue station in Brooklyn to Manhattan, with activists from different neighborhoods getting onto the “liberated train” as it made stops along the way. The protesters put up signs, handed out flyers, and carried balloons as they rode the subway and were soon confronted by police, who demanded that they remove the signage. 

When the activists finally exited the subway at the Fourteenth Street/Eighth Avenue station, officers detained McKee. According to the New York Daily News, they claimed to have observed the adjunct art history professor putting stickers onto the train car. McKee was moved to Manhattan Central Booking that night.

The rest of the group marched from the station to the Whitney Museum to stage a protest outside its main entrance, where they called for the removal of Kanders, who owns Safariland—a private defense company that manufactures tear gas—from the institution’s board. “As long as Warren Kanders remains at this museum, it is a militant institution,” said one activist as they spoke to the crowd. “We want people to know that the Whitney is profiting off of people’s pain.”

In a statement, DTP wrote: “Whitney Museum leadership, including the board of trustees, should know we hold it responsible for the arrest and continued detention of one of our organizers, an art historian, educator, friend. As we go to do jail support now, we urge the Whitney to make the right decision and reverse course. We simply will not allow Warren Kanders to remain on its board.”

Decolonize This Place protest at the Whitney Museum of American Art on Friday, May 10. Photo: Lauren Cavalli.