American University announced Monday that it will remove a large statue of Leonard Peltier from outside its art museum. Peltier is a Native American activist who was convicted of murder in the shooting deaths of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in a 1975 incident at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Many Native American activists have long maintained -- backed by groups such as Amnesty International -- that Peltier did not receive a fair trial and was convicted unfairly. Some of those activists have been promoting the statue to draw attention to their campaign to have President Obama grant clemency to Peltier, but law enforcement groups have been criticizing American University for letting the statue be so visible on campus.
In a statement, the university said in part, "The decision to host the Peltier statue required a more thorough assessment of the implications of placing the piece in a prominent, public space outside the museum. With the benefit of a fuller review, we have made a decision to remove the piece from this location. The subject matter and placement of the piece improperly suggested that American University has assumed an advocacy position of clemency for Mr. Peltier, when no such institutional position has been taken. Further, the nature and location of the piece called into question our ability to honor our responsibilities to ensure the security of the art and the safety of our community."
The artist who created the sculpture goes by the name Rigo 23. He condemned American University's decision in an interview with WUSA 9 News. "My reaction is one of sadness and disbelief," Rigo 23 said. "What the director of the art center told me is the Fox News item unleashed the crazies, and the crazies are threatening the university."