The push to remove historical statues of figures deemed offensive has spread from Confederate figures to former U.S. Presidents. The city council in Arcata, California recently voted to remove a statue of President William McKinley that has stood since 1906. The move comes after activists called for the statue to come down because of McKinley's mistreatment of Native Americans. Specifically, they claim McKinley supported and directed the killing and destruction of indigenous people by new settlers in the late 19th Century.
But not everyone in Arcata is on board with the plan. David LaRue has lived in the city for more than two decades, and is leading an effort for a ballot initiative to put the McKinley statue up for a vote. LaRue tells KTRH the criticisms of McKinley are over the top and unfair. "By today's standards he wasn't politically correct, but you could say the same about Abraham Lincoln," says LaRue. "The one thing I hear repeated over and over is that (McKinley) was in favor of genocide, which I see nothing to back that up...it just seems outrageous."
The irony of tearing down a McKinley statue is that he was actually on the opposite side of the Confederate leaders whose statues have been under fire in recent years. "McKinley fought in the Civil War as well, but he fought with the North, he fought to end slavery," says LaRue. "He also gave unprecedented numbers of positions in his administration to minorities."
LaRue is confident he will gather the necessary signatures to get the statue removal placed on this fall's ballot, and he believes Arcata residents will vote to keep it. "Erasing history by removing fragments of the past is wrong," he says. "Removing this piece of art will change nothing, because you cannot change history."