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Decolonize This Place Activists Occupy the Brooklyn Museum

More than sixty protesters flooded the Beaux-Arts Court of the Brooklyn Museum on Sunday, April 29, to draw attention to issues related to gentrification and diversification. Organized by the coalition of activist groups Decolonize This Place, the action followed an open letter issued earlier this month, which criticized the museum for hiring a white woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, as a consulting curator for African art and urged the institution to establish a “Decolonization Commission” that would “redress ongoing legacies of oppression.”

According to Gothamist, the demonstrators purchased tickets, entered the museum in small groups, and waited for their cue to start the protest. After a whistle was blown, members of Decolonize This Place began to unfurl banners featuring their list of seven demands, hand out pamphlets, and speak out against the museum’s “colonial practices.” The activists want the museum to acknowledge that its building stands on indigenous land, prioritize the diversification of its staff, and create an inventory of its colonial-era objects in order to work toward repatriating artifacts. They also called for board president and former real-estate developer David Berliner, as well as other trustees, to step down from their positions.  

“This museum houses collections obtained through imperial plunder,” said Shellyne Rodriguez, a member of Take Back the Bronx, who helped organize the event. “Diverse programming is not enough! It is cosmetic solidarity. The museum wants our art, our culture, but not our people.”

After several other speeches, the rally eventually moved from the museum to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which was holding its annual cherry blossom festival. Protesters then shifted their focus to urging the garden to stand against the recent rezoning of the surrounding area, which will allow developers to construct buildings more than thirteen stories tall.