An art exhibit installed at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria by actor Shia LaBeouf’s art collective has been the scene of hate speech by white supremacists, and one councilman held a rally on Sunday to “forcefully respond against the hate.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer held the Jan. 29 rally at the exhibit, where hundreds of Queens residents came out to repeat the phrase “He will not divide us” into the camera, which is live-streamed all around the world.
“It is an important and thought-provoking piece that has elicited many powerful and positive interactions,” he said in a statement. “It has also brought out dissenting voices, which of course the piece welcomes. Alarmingly, it has also brought out hate speech, hateful acts and hate groups recognized by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
The exhibit, titled “He Will Not Divide Us,” was installed on Jan. 20. A camera was placed on a wall outside of the museum and the words “He will not divide us” were painted on the wall. People are encouraged to say the words into the camera, which will be on display for four years, throughout the duration of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Soon after the camera was placed there, some people began to use it to express other viewpoints. 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.”
LeBeouf was briefly arrested on Jan. 26 for after getting into a heated argument with a 25-year-old 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.
Sunday’s rally was held at the museum to demonstrate “Queens Values,” which include “inclusivity, diversity and love,” Van Bramer said.
Residents created signs with phrases such as “not afraid” and “we are all immigrants.” Public Advocate Letitia James also attended the event.
The event took place two days after the Trump Administration announced that people from seven predominately Muslim countries would not be able to travel into the United States, including those with green cards and visas. This ban sparked outrage across the country, where hundreds protested at airports including JFK Airport in Queens.
Van Bramer has held other events to protest Trump’s rhetoric during his campaign, including a march to Trump Tower from Long Island City in November, when the NYPD was reporting a spike in hate crimes across the city.