Optimus Prime Testifies At Local Gov’t Meeting In Attempt To Save Transformers Statues

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Bumblebee and Optimus Prime voice actors testified in character at D.C.’s Public Space Committee Meeting Thursday to defend a man keeping two giant Transformer statues outside his Georgetown townhouse. 

Dr. Newton Howard, a professor of computational neurology and functional neurosurgery at Georgetown University, resides in the historic D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown on Prospect Street. In 2021, he was awarded a permit by the Old Georgetown Board to keep huge statues of Bumblebee and Optimus Prime from the Transformers franchise outside his townhome for six months, reported WUSA

The permit has long since expired, but Howard is determined to keep the statues up, much to the ire of his neighbors who claim it is a public safety hazard and detracts from the historic character of Georgetown. (RELATED: Man Who Put Up Giant ‘Transformers’ Statues In Front Of His House To Neighbors Dismay Says He Will Take Battle To Court)

“These are massive robots. They require anchors to the facade, and were installed with no permits, no safety or engineering study. We have motorcycle gangs that show up and block the middle of the street to take photos, we have cars that idle, we have tour buses… you name it, we have it. We have no access to our sidewalks. People yell and spit at us if we don’t stop when they want to take a selfie. Disruptive is a tame word for what we’ve had to endure over the last 27 months,” Catherine Emmerson, co-founder of the Prospect Street Citizens Association, told the DCist

In early April, the three-person Old Georgetown Board voted unanimously to deny Newton’s request to keep the statues up more permanently, reported the DCist.

Alan Brangham, chairman of the board, said, “We hope that these statues will disappear in the not-too-distant future.” 

But Howard would not back down, responding with, “I will defend those sculptures from being taken down by anyone. Children love them, they even leave flowers for them sometimes. I cannot let negative thinking and outdated thoughts prevail over progressive impact for love and inclusion.” 

At this month’s D.C. Public Space Commission, Howard found allies in Optimus Prime and Bumblebee themselves, according to the Washington Post. Or least, their voice actors. 

At the virtual meeting, Peter Cullen, the original voice actor of Optimus Prime, and Dan Gilvezan, the original voice actor of Bumblebee, set their avatar photos to their characters.

Cullen, speaking in his Optimus Prime voice, argued, “I, Optimus Prime, pale to his heroism. Georgetown should be proud to share his visions of transformation. Peace is the right of all sentient beings. Autobots, humans, let us transform until we are all one!”

“It seems fitting to me that we heroes who fight every day for freedom and liberty belong in a place so closely associated with those very qualities, the capital of this great country. Now, I understand some people think that these statues stick out like a sore thumb. Well, first, I resent being compared to a sore thumb. A healthy, well-functioning thumb, maybe, but a sore thumb? It’s also been said that they don’t reflect the historic nature of the district. Are you kidding me? We Autobots have been around for millennia. You want to talk historic? We’re prehistoric,” testified Gilvezan, according to the DCist. 

Testimony from the autobots themselves wasn’t enough to persuade the committee, though, which denied Howard’s request for a public space permit, reported WUSA.

However, Paul Strauss, Howard’s attorney in the issue, told the DCist, “It’s not over yet. Obviously there’s a variety of legal options but we want to get a better sense of whether reapplying with certain modifications may make some sense.” 

For now, the statues still stand on Prospect Street in Washington, D.C. as the fight over their future continues.