“He Will Not Divide Us” is Shia LaBeouf’s ongoing protest art project. Outside the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York is a gray-painted wall with the single bulbous eye of a webcam glaring darkly underneath the titular text stenciled in black. Beginning on Inauguration Day, he invited the public to join him in appearing on that camera and repeating the words, “he will not divide us.”
‘He’ is, of course, President Trump. LaBeouf and his artistic partners, Nastja Sade Ronkko and Luke Turner, hope to keep the project streaming live for the next four years, every hour of every day.
Amid the protests that have washed like tides across the country since the Inauguration, though, the project is off to a rocky start. LaBeouf was arrested and removed from the site in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, January 26th, less than a week in. He faces minor charges of assault for grabbing a man’s scarf and verbally fighting with the police.
LaBeouf, who began his career as a child star on the Disney Channel, has grown into an eccentric and often provocative artist who encourages public participation in his exhibitions and performances. In 2015, for instance, he invited all comers to participate in a three-day non-stop marathon of every movie he acted in as a child and teenager. Shortly after that, he lived for several days in an English art gallery, asking the public to call him up and tell him their stories to “touch his soul.”
During the 2016 election campaign, LaBeouf posted frequent, explosive videos expressing his outrage at how things were proceeding. “He Will Not Divide Us” appears to be a culmination of those feelings. He has certainly not become less angry. This was not the performer’s first brush with the police, and it likely won’t be his last.