Hofstra University student activists are calling for the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson from campus near New York City because they say the third American president represents racism and slavery.
Students participated Friday in the second annual “Jefferson Has Gotta Go!” event over the statue that has been subject to protests and acts of vandalism in the past, with some previously defacing it with “DECOLONIZE” and “Black Lives Matter” slogans.
A petition last year was launched urging to move the Founding Father’s statue to a museum with proper context rather than display it “on a college campus, especially not in front of a hub of student life.”
“Jefferson’s values aided in the construction of institutionalized racism and justified the subjugation of black people in the United States,” the petition read. “Jefferson has been embraced as an icon by white supremacist and neo-nazi organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and online white supremacist chat rooms.”
“Jefferson’s values aided in the construction of institutionalized racism and justified the subjugation of black people in the United States.”
The Jefferson Has Gotta Go campaign, organized by students are other area activists, held the protest on Friday at the site of the statue.
The group said its goal was to “expose the culture of bias and discrimination” and to demand “the statue of Thomas Jefferson is removed,” according to Campus Reform.
Hofstra College Democrats told the campus watchdog that they too “want the statue to be removed and [we] stand with the Jefferson Has Gotta Go Campaign.”
“JGG isn’t just about a statue," former College Democrats executive board member Miranda Pino seconded. “Yes, the removal of the statue is important, but it is about what the statue represents: a legacy of racism and bigotry on college campuses.”
But the protesters are going further than just calling for removal of the statue. They are also demanding “an online, bias reporting system, an online complaint receipt program, and mandated, comprehensive, cultural competency training.”
The university hasn’t yet caved to the protesters’ demands, though last year the administration reportedly announced an intention to create a task force that would foster dialogue and education on “founding fathers, the Atlantic slave trade and Western expansion; to think about what freedom and equality mean at the University.”