No other city has taken down a monument to a president for his misdeeds. But Arcata is poised to do just that. The target is an 8½-foot bronze likeness of William McKinley, who was president at the turn of the last century and stands accused of directing the slaughter of Native peoples in the U.S. and abroad.
"Put a rope around its neck and pull it down," Chris Peters shouted at a recent rally held at the statue, which has adorned the central square for more than a century.
Peters, who heads the Arcata-based Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous People, called McKinley a proponent of "settler colonialism" that "savaged, raped and killed."
A presidential statue would be the most significant casualty in an emerging movement to remove monuments honoring people who helped lead what Native groups describe as a centuries-long war against their very existence.
The push follows the rapid fall of Confederate memorials across the South in a victory for activists who view them as celebrating slavery. In the nearly eight months since white supremacists marched in central Virginia to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, cities across the country have yanked dozens of Confederate monuments. Black politicians and activists have been among the strongest supporters of the removals.
This time, it's tribal activists taking charge, and it's the West and California in particular leading the way. The state is home to the largest Native American population in the country and more than 100 federally recognized tribes.