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Statue of colonial-era King Leopold II REMOVED in Belgium amid Black Lives Matter protests

Statue of colonial-era King Leopold II REMOVED in Belgium amid Black Lives Matter protests
A statue of Belgium’s notorious colonialist King Leopold II has been removed from its location in Antwerp to be relocated to a museum, days after it was defaced with graffiti amid worldwide Black Lives Matter protests.

A spokesman for Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever said the Leopold statue will now “become part of the museum collection” and "because of the renovation work planned for 2023 in the square in which it was placed, the statue will not be replaced.”

The monument, which stood beside a church in the Ekeren district, was targeted by demonstrators at the weekend as protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by police in the US continue to rage around the world. Protesters defaced the monument with red paint and set it on fire.

The statue has long been controversial in the city, given Leopold’s brutal treatment of people he ruled in the Congo Free State, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As many as 10 million Congolese people died as a result of atrocities committed under Leopold’s 23-year reign, and an online petition against honoring his memory garnered over 64,000 signatures on Tuesday. 

The removal of the statue comes after protesters in Bristol tore down a statue erected to honor slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into a nearby river. Meanwhile, in London, a statue honoring wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was also defaced with paint. 

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While Churchill is remembered by many for leading Britain through World War II, he is condemned by others for policies that contributed to the 1943 Bengal Famine, which led to the deaths of up to three million people.

On Tuesday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that the city’s monuments and street names would be reviewed because they “shouldn’t be commemorating or memorialising people who were slavers.” 

The issue of tearing down or removing historic statues is a controversial one. While many believe cities should begin to reconsider which historic figures they choose to honor in the public realm, others say it simply erases history altogether.

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