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17 Jun, 2020 11:07

The king is dead! Long live… Greta? Swedish former mayor calls for replacement of Charles XII statue with one of Thunberg

The king is dead! Long live… Greta? Swedish former mayor calls for replacement of Charles XII statue with one of Thunberg

An ex-mayor of a Swedish municipality took some heat online for suggesting that a statue of King Charles XII be pulled down, and a sculpture of Greta Thunberg or the late UN head, Dag Hammarskjold, be installed instead.

Jan Björinge, the former mayor of the Umea municipality, couldn’t resist jumping in as the Black Lives Matter-inspired trend of toppling statues gained traction across the world. Joining the debate in an opinion piece for the Aftonbladet newspaper, he wondered if it was “right to allow public places to disseminate anti-democratic values” on Swedish soil.

He recalled that a number of statues of “oppressors” had been pulled down over the years, and made particular mention of Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, and Saddam Hussein – quite a mixed bag, in anyone’s view. And Sweden, he said, had its own bronze candidate for removal, who also went by the name Karl.

For Björinge, King Karl XII (otherwise known as Charles XII), who occupied the Swedish throne between 1697 and 1718, was undemocratic enough to warrant being removed from his pedestal. Pushing ahead with his argument, he went a lot further than others who advocate the tearing down of controversial statues.

Remove the one-time ruler Karl XII and replace him with the climate activist Greta Thunberg, or at least with the diplomat and [Nobel] Peace Prize winner, Dag Hammarskjöld.

Hammarskjöld, a renowned Swedish diplomat who led the United Nations in the 1950s, and Thunberg, a long-time mainstream-media darling, especially since her incendiary UN speech in 2019, “contributed to a more humane and more sustainable world,” the retired politician insisted.

When they were later shared online, Björinge’s views seemingly failed to win the hearts of his fellow Swedes.

Patriots reminded him that Karl XII “devoted his life to defending Sweden,” and said, were it not for the king’s efforts, “you probably wouldn’t even have been here, let alone written your crap article.” 

Others taunted the proposal, suggesting that Björinge should first be advocating tearing down the Egyptian pyramids, as they are “a clear symbol of slavery.” Those poking fun at the former mayor wondered if he wanted Greta’s monument to look like this.

The scrutiny and removal of statues with links to colonialism or the slave trade have become a divisive issue in recent weeks. In the US, a number of Confederate memorials have been defaced or pulled down by anti-racism protesters, as have some colonial-era monuments in the UK.

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