Friday morning at around 9:30 AM, the first of three deeply ironic “statues” appeared in DC’s Freedom Plaza, a few thousand feet from the site where police tear-gassed peaceful protesters so President Trump could have a photo op in front of St. John’s Church this past June. It was a living statue, with a person playing Trump covered in gold atop a plinth, holding a Bible that mocked Trump’s pose while an individual in heavy military gear held a baton over a prone Black Lives Matter protester. It was called “The Poser.”
Two other similar statues followed: “The Bunker,” in front of the Trump Hotel, showing the Trump figure clutching a teddy bear in fear, and “Now Go Back to School,” where “Trump,” holding a golf club in one hand and a lollipop in the other, orders a child armored in PPE to return to class.
Washingtonian arrived in Freedom Plaza too late on Friday afternoon to see the statues ourselves, but we ran into Bryan Buckley, the well-known director of commercials and documentaries, who was named on the website of the Trump Statue Initiative, the group responsible for the display. “We wanted to create these sort of defining moments of his presidency,” Buckley says, “in terms of everything that was wrong.”
The Trump Statue Initiative says it wanted to “memorialize [Trump’s] legacy in a way our President can truly relate: Realistic heroic statues.” They got permits for the Freedom Plaza displays and imposed the Trump Hotel display in guerrilla fashion. Why DC? “I look at Washington today,” he says, “and it’s a ghost town, you know? The decisions that come from the top are a big part of the reason” Covid-19 has walloped the DC economy.
Buckley used to come to DC with his parents as kid in New Hampshire for protests. “Nixon, as bad as he was, never closed himself off” the way Trump has in the White House, he says. Future plans may include appearances of the statues in swing states or at the Republican National Convention planned in Jacksonville, Florida, next month. “The group, Buckley says, doesn’t “have an agenda except vote in 2020. And let’s get these messages out that are smart and sort of just move people to think.”