The Revolting Lesbians were back on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History on Friday, and they weren’t afraid to get kicked out or even have the cops called on them. In fact, that was partially their goal.
The Friday the 13th “horror show” was a demonstration against Rebekah Mercer — a museum trustee who has donated to various climate change denial groups, owns half of the website Breitbart, and is a board member of the data firm Cambridge Analytica.
“It’s outrageous,” said Amanda Lugg, a member of the Revolting Lesbians, which formed last November to follow the money of right-wing organizations. “This institution is basically giving her a legitimacy and a cover and an aura of respectability that she doesn’t deserve.”
Nine protesters wearing floor-length black robes with masks of Rebekah Mercer solemnly marched through the museum late in the afternoon Friday. They began their march in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals near the elephants. The group — which had some dozen security officers monitoring the procession — marched in a single file line, humming and chanting: “Why am I a trustee here?” and “I do not belong at the American Natural History Museum.”
After exiting, they stood on the steps facing Central Park West, continuing to chant: “Rebekah Mercer is killing our planet, get her off the board god-dammit!”
“They wanted us out as quickly as possible,” said Lugg, who was not wearing a robe, but explained to the security guards why the protesters were marching. “We wanted out just as slow as possible.”
A nearby security guard murmured into a walkie-talkie, telling a colleague that the group was chanting and humming softly in the hallway. Another one told Lugg that they would have to call the police if they didn’t leave. She responded, “Well, that’s kind of what we want.” That revelation, Lugg added, “kind of stumped him.”
The group’s demand is that the museum remove Mercer from the board of trustees. But the demonstrators’ second goal is much broader than that. Many people do not know who Mercer is or that she serves as a trustee of the museum.
“We’re trying to be creative and think of any way that’s different to reach different people,” said Anne Maguire, another protester among the Revolting Lesbians. The Friday the 13th horror show theme would help expose who she is, and “she is a horror,” said Maguire.
Maguire and others hope the recent focus in the news cycle on the data firm Cambridge Analytica’s involvement with scraping data from tens of millions of people on Facebook will help people “connect the dots.” Mercer’s father, Robert Mercer, is a major investor of the firm, and Rebekah Mercer serves on the board.
The billionaire heiress has donated more than $48 million to groups promoting climate change denial, according to the group’s review of the Mercer Family Foundation’s 990 tax forms from 2005 to 2016. She also served on President Donald Trump’s transition team alongside Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. Late last year, Mercer and her sisters acquired the stake their father sold in the Breitbart website, known for promoting alt-right content during the 2016 presidential election and since.
“She’s flying under the radar,” said Jo Macellaro, another member of the Revolting Lesbians. She added that if someone with a bigger name — such as Trump or Bannon — were on the board, then “people would be furious.”
When asked about Mercer’s potential influence on scientific information in the museum, a spokesperson for the museum said that is not the responsibility of trustees.
“It’s not the role of Trustees or donors to make decisions about scientific and educational content,” Scott Rohan, senior publicist at the museum, said by email. “At the Museum, those decisions are made by scientists and educators based on evidence, facts, and research.”
Rohan added, “As a scientific and educational institution, the Museum believes that human-induced climate change is well-supported by scientific evidence and is one of the most serious issues currently facing our planet. We are deeply committed to presenting evidence-based, scientific information about climate change to a broad public. That has included, and continues to include, exhibitions, educational and public programs, scientific research, and content in our permanent halls, including updating content where we have new scientific information.”
The Revolting Lesbians are planning their next actions on Earth Day, April 22 at the museum’s entrance. Back in January, the group protested outside the museum with the same demands, as Gay City New reported. Their campaign to remove Mercer from the board won’t stop until she is removed as a trustee or resigns herself.