A climate protestor recently painted words in red on a wall near a Civil War exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The protestor’s aim was to demand that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency.
A man in red and lavender purple shirts, identified by the climate activist group Declare Emergency as Geor Green, painted the words “Honor Them” on the wall adjacent to the sculpture The Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial (1900).
The 17-foot-long patinated plaster monument by Augustus Saint-Gaudens “commemorates the valiant efforts of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the Massachusetts 54th, one of the first Civil War regiments of African Americans enlisted in the North,” according to the museum. The wall next to it features a list of the names of the soldiers of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment who were killed, wounded, captured, or missing following the Battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863.
“We can confirm that the person has been arrested, and the incident is being investigated,” museum spokesperson Anabeth Guthrie said in an email to ARTnews. “We can confirm that no works of art were harmed. Our staff worked hard to clean the wall and reopened the gallery on Wednesday.”
Green said his act of “strict, non-violent civil disobedience” took place at Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture “because the great majority of the people who are being harmed by the climate emergency now and who will be harmed in the future are people who look like the soldiers of the Massachusetts 54th.”
He cited his time working with unhoused people in Salt Lake City and his concerns that more people will become displaced due to wildfires and “sinking economies.” He also said he was worried about how climate change will affect access to food, especially among the poorest families, who are over-represented in Black and Indigenous communities, as well as other communities of color.
“I can’t sit by and do nothing,” Green wrote in his statement, published by Declare Emergency on Facebook.
This is the second climate protest at the museum associated with Declare Emergency this year. In April, two climate protestors smeared black and red paint on the pedestal and protective case of Edgar Degas’s sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. In May, the two protestors were charged by the US Attorney’s Office with “conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States” and injury to an exhibit or property at the museum.