Francis Henry Taylor, a director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1940s and ’50s, described the museum as no less than “the midwife of democracy.”
But officials at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, that city’s grand encyclopedic museum, probably didn’t bargain on a version of democracy as messy as the one they got on Saturday, when a Trump-related protest turned violent and made its way into the galleries, with fists and feet flying near artworks.
The confrontation began when a large group of organized protesters, holding banners identifying themselves as the Industrial Workers of the World, held a rally in front of the museum, apparently to condemn the Trump administration’s plans for more aggressive immigration enforcement and deportations.
Kaywin Feldman, the museum’s director, said security camera footage showed two or three men apparently engaging in an argument with the protesters. When the men went into the museum, anti-Trump protesters followed them inside.
Two witnesses told The Star Tribune of Minneapolis that they had heard the men who agitated the anti-Trump protesters yelling neo-Nazi provocations, and that one of the men was wearing a neo-Nazi or white-nationalist symbol on his jacket. Attempts to reach the witnesses by phone and social media on Monday were unsuccessful. But Ms. Feldman said no such symbols were visible in the security footage, and she did not have any information from the museum’s security guards about what the men had been yelling.
“We don’t have an indication of who they were,” she said. “But it was obvious that the I.W.W. fellows were going through the galleries looking for them, for their opponents.”
They finally found them in a gallery of 18th-century art with two English landscape paintings, French armchairs and a Sèvres porcelain sculpture. A scuffle ensued in which an I.W.W. protester pinned one of the men to the ground and began hitting him. A female museum security guard intervened to protect the man.
“She was terribly brave,” Ms. Feldman said. “As you can imagine, our security officers are trained not to put themselves in harm’s way ever. And so this was just a reaction on her part to protect another human.”
The fight was broken up before the police arrived, and no art was damaged, Ms. Feldman said. She added that the man who was hit declined to press charges. No one was arrested.
“We’re a free museum, and making the institution accessible is the value we hold most dear,” Ms. Feldman said. “We will always maintain that, and we have no intention to profile visitors. But with this in mind, we will now look carefully for indicators of people we might need to keep an eye out for.”
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