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Museum of Moving Image shuts anti-Trump exhibit to protect public safety

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer backed the museum’s decision to close the controversial exhibit.
Photo by Gina Martinez
By Gina Martinez

The Museum of the Moving Image has closed the anti-Trump exhibit called “He Will Not Divide Us” after the museum deemed it a public safety hazard because of violent threats and many arrests.

The art project was started by actor and activist Shia LaBeouf and two collaborators. It was a 24-hour live stream that began the day of Trump’s inauguration and was set to run for the next four years, or as long as Trump was president. LaBeouf invited people to repeat the phrase “He will not divide us” into a camera to protest Trump’s presidency. The exhibit attracted individuals who identified themselves as neo-Nazis and white supremacists on camera and wanted to disrupt the project.

LaBeouf himself was arrested Jan. 26 and charged with misdemeanor assault after an altercation with another man. It was not known what provoked the altercation

The museum said the atmosphere deteriorated after LaBeouf’s arrest at the site of the exhibit and ultimately led to the decision to shut down the installation.

“The installation had become a flashpoint for violence and was disrupted from its original intent,” MOMI said in a statement. “Over the course of the installation, there have been dozens of threats of violence and numerous arrests, such that police felt compelled to be stationed outside the installation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The museum, located in Astoria at 36-01 at 35th Ave., said it put a priority on the safety of visitors and community members.

“We are proud to have launched this engaging and thought-provoking digital art installation, which was experienced by millions of online viewers worldwide,” the museum said. “Until public safety concerns overrode the intent of the installation, “He Will Not Divide Us” generated an important conversation allowing interaction among people from many backgrounds and with different viewpoints. However, ending our engagement with the installation is the most prudent path forward to restore public safety to the museum, its visitors, staff, and the community.”

LaBeouf tweeted an image Thursday that read “The museum abandoned us” with the hash tag #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) sided with the museum’s decision. The councilman recently led a rally denouncing the influx of white supremacist disrupting the exhibit. He said over the last few week’s constituents who lived near the exhibit have complained that they felt unsafe. Officers from the 114th Precinct reported dozens of threats and made multiple arrests at the installation as well, Van Bramer said.

“Needless to say, I was also shocked and outraged by the hateful symbols and rhetoric used by far too many at the exhibit,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “I witnessed racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and unabashedly pro-Nazi symbols and remarks on this live feed. I’m proud to have led a rally at the site to denounce such hatred.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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