Updated Jan. 26, 3:16 p.m.
A public art installation at an Astoria museum by Shia LaBeouf’s art collective after President Donald Trump’s inauguration has attracted people with opposing political views and has been the scene of a few contentious incidents — including one involving the actor.
LaBeouf himself was arrested on Thursday morning after getting into a heated argument with a 25-year-old anti-Trump protester, according to CNN. The actor was booked on misdemeanor charges after allegedly tugging on the protester’s scarf during the argument and scratching the individual’s neck.
The project, titled “HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US,” invites people to stand outside of the Museum of Moving Image at 36-01 35th Ave. and say the words “he will not divide us” into a camera mounted on a wall. LaBeouf’s art collective officially introduced the project on Jan. 20, the day of the inauguration.
While many people, including students from nearby Frank Sinatra High School have participated, others have used the cameras to convey other points. A man repeated Nazi phrases such as “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” and the number 88, an abbreviation for the Nazi salute Heil Hitler.
LaBeouf, who was present when the man started saying the phrases into the camera, began to yell “he will not divide us” in his face.
Another passerby went up to the camera and repeated “Hitler did nothing wrong.”
— Just Call Me Mister (@MisterMetokur) January 23, 2017
Tomoko Kawamoto, spokesperson for the Museum of Moving Image, said the project is not “anti-Trump” and that the museum will “welcome participants of all political viewpoints to be part of the work and expect all to behave with common decency and respect for others.”
“The response to the work has been overwhelmingly positive from the millions of people who have experienced it either in person or online,” she said. “The vast majority of the interactions in person have been peaceful, sometimes breaking into impromptu concerts, featuring people of different ages, ethnicities, races, and political positions connecting in productive dialogue.”
She also added that there have been a few “incidents of hate speech.”
“As an institution devoted to inclusion and diversity, and as a site for everyone, the Museum condemns hate speech in all its forms,” Kawamoto said in a statement. “Out of concern for the safety of all participants, Museum visitors and staff, and the surrounding community, we are monitoring the situation in partnership with local law enforcement.”
Astoria residents at a 114th Precinct Community Council meeting on Jan. 24 asked Deputy Inspector Peter Fortune, the commanding officer, to explain what was happening at the location.
Fortune said he met with the head of security of the museum and the curator to discuss security protocol.
“We expressed safety concerns, keeping people in that little cutout,” Fortune said. “If the crowd does swell, keeping them on the sidewalk. We don’t want to see them spill out into the street or struck by a vehicle.”
It’s not clear what kind of security precautions the museum is taking. Requests for comment were not returned to QNS.
Fortune said the 114th Precinct will continue to monitor the area and protect everyone’s rights to free speech.
“There’s also another group that don’t agree with this movement that’s going on [camera] so we’ve seen some contentious situations,” he said. “That’s what our role as police officers are, is to protect everybody’s freedom of speech and make sure that everyone can go out there peacefully and safely and do that on both sides of the isle.”
The camera will be up for four years, according to LaBeouf’s at collective LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner.