Last weekend, two community organizers were thrown out of the Brooklyn Museum by security for distributing flyers to other visitors in the galleries during the institution’s First Saturdays event. The activists were handing out material criticizing institutional practices and connecting the Black and Palestinian liberation movements in light of the museum’s programming around Black History Month and the last days of an exhibition focused on African-American film director Spike Lee.
The demonstration, which lasted about an hour on Saturday evening, was staged by a local, Black-led communist collective called For Our Liberation (FOL). Approximately 10 organizers projected the names of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli airstrikes on the museum’s exterior while a group of three entered the museum and managed to distribute flyers to visitors for approximately 30 minutes before museum security began to escort them out.
As they were being ushered out, two organizers continued to hand out flyers to passing visitors while the third filmed it. Footage shared on Instagram shows at least five security guards separating, pushing, and shoving the pair toward the exit while museum visitors pleaded with them to stop. The first organizer can be seen steadying himself after he was pushed out past the museum’s double doors off-screen. Security appears to throw a second organizer out of the building, causing them to fall to the pavement.
The Brooklyn Museum did not respond to Hyperallergic‘s requests for comment.
“We came to peacefully engage with community about how we can educate and take action against these institutions,” the second FOL organizer, who requested anonymity, shared in a statement to Hyperallergic.
“We did not come to disrupt or to diverge or shame the masses from attending this event — we wanted to educate the people on who was sponsoring this event and the Brooklyn Museum, how its funding directly contributes to the oppression we face every day nationally and internationally, and drew the intersections between the Black struggle and the Palestinian struggle,” they added.
One flyer drew attention to the corporate sponsors of the Brooklyn Museum that have financially contributed or shown support to the Israeli military and specifically singled out First Saturdays sponsor Bank of America for its funding of the “Cop City” police training center in Atlanta, Georgia. The materials also highlighted the widely criticized 2015 Brooklyn Real Estate Summit held at the museum and its alleged role in gentrifying the surrounding neighborhoods in the borough as well as its long-winded negotiations with unionized staff. The other page encouraged people to connect with FOL and boycott the museum until it divests from sponsors that back Israel.
“The Brooklyn Museum is hosting a Black History Month event while continuously contributing to the struggle of the Black masses who attend,” the organizer continued. “We know that Black people need and deserve safe spaces, but any space rooted in capitalism and imperialism is inherently racist and does not support the well-being of Black and Brown people.”
The FOL organizers alleged that after they were thrown out of the museum, security asked the demonstrators staging the projection outside to stop twice before attempting to call the police, prompting the activists to shut it down.
Neither of the two reported any lasting physical injuries from their expulsion and managed to distribute all 300 flyers. Both FOL organizers stated that the Brooklyn Museum has not contacted them directly regarding the incident. The first organizer reported that the backpack he was forced to leave with the coat check is still at the museum.
“What made me very happy was that some people who expressed that the information would ruin their night still wanted to learn more,” he stated to Hyperallergic. “This only further solidifies my faith in the people.”
A museum employee who spoke under the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation told Hyperallergic that they were “enraged and upset that protestors were violently removed.”
“I hope that they [FOL] know that they are not alone in their solidarity with Palestinian liberation and commitment to ensuring cultural institutions like the Brooklyn Museum do not manufacture consent for genocide,” the employee said.