Statue of Belgium’s King Leopold II is removed in Antwerp after it was vandalised by anti-racism protesters because of his colonial rule (video)

A statue of King Leopold II of Belgium was taken down in Antwerp today after it was vandalised by protesters because of his brutal colonial rule in the Congo.

  • Belgium’s King Leopold II exploited the Belgian Congo with slave labour, leaving millions of people dead
  • The statue in Antwerp was vandalised by protesters last week and has now been removed for repairs
  • Antwerp authorities said the statue is unlikely to return to a public place but could be moved to a museum 

Leopold owned the Belgian Congo as his personal property from 1885 to 1908 and subjected its people to forced labour while he exploited the country’s rubber reserves – leading to millions of deaths in what some regard as a genocide.

The Antwerp statue is the latest symbol of racism to be targeted amid global Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in the United States.

The mayor’s office said the statue was taken down to be ‘restored’ after it was daubed with paint, but said it was unlikely to return to its public pedestal.

The Leopold statue is seen standing in Antwerp last week after it was vandalised by demonstrators during the anti-racism protests which have spread across the world
A chipped and vandalised statue of former Belgian King Leopold II is seen being removed for possible renovation in Ekeren, Antwerp, Belgium today
Workmen can be seen loading the statue on to pallets to remove it for possible restoration in Antwerp, Belgium today

Several Leopold statues have been defaced around Belgium in recent days as the global anti-racism movement sweeps Europe.

A spokesman for Antwerp mayor Bart de Wever said the city’s statue was ‘seriously vandalised last week’ and ‘needs to be restored’ by a sculpture museum.

‘Because of the renovation work planned for 2023 in the square in which it was placed, the statue will not be replaced. It will probably become part of the museum collection,’ he said.

A spokeswoman for the Middelheim Museum confirmed they had received the statue and said they would restore it before deciding what to do with it.

There are separate calls to take down Leopold monuments in Brussels, where one of his busts was covered in red paint last week.

Leopold is honoured with several monuments after ruling Belgium from 1865 to 1909, the longest reign in the kingdom’s history.

But his exploitation of the Congo Free State is seen as brutal even by the standards of the time, with millions thought to have died under Leopold’s personal rule.

The statue can be seen daubed by graffiti after it was vandalised by protesters last week in Antwerp, Belgium
A view of a defaced statue of King Leopold II of Belgium, after it was set on fire and smeared with red paint, in Ekeren, Antwerp, Belgium, 05 June 2020. At least two petitions were launched to remove all statues in honour of the colonial-era monarch due to historical atrocities committed in his name in his former colony Congo, reports say

Leopold amassed a huge personal fortune while the Congolese were killed or savagely maimed working on his rubber plantations.

Locals who failed to produce enough rubber would have their hands chopped off or their women taken hostage until the target was met. Others were shot dead.

The plunder of resources also included ivory, copper and diamonds, while Leopold even imported some Congolese people to be put on show at a ‘human zoo’ in Belgium.

Other looted treasures were put on display at the Africa Museum in Brussels, which Leopold used as a ‘propaganda tool’ for his colonial project.

American writer Adam Hochschild claimed in his 1998 book King Leopold’s Ghost that the death toll from Leopold’s policies was as high as 10million Congolese.

In fiction, the Belgian Congo provided the backdrop for Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad’s classic novel on colonial exploitation.

The exploitation made Belgium a successful trading economy, but sparked an outcry which has been described as one of the world’s first major human rights campaigns.

Another statue of former Belgian King Leopold II, this time in Tervuren near Brussels, is seen sprayed with a graffiti in the park of the Africa Museum, in a photograph taken today
Another Leopold statue, this one in Brussels, was targeted by protesters waving the flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday
A protester holds a portrait of Belgian King Leopold II during a protest, organised by Black Lives Matter Belgium, against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in central Brussels, Belgium on Saturday
A sculpture of former Belgian King Leopold II is seen covered by a blanket after it was damaged in the park of the Africa Museum in Tervuren, near Brussels, Belgium last week

After the atrocities came to light, Leopold was eventually stripped of personal ownership of the Congo in 1908.

However, Congo did not become independent until 1960 and many Belgians remain uninformed about their country’s colonial past.

While the former king and some of his most notorious lieutenants are still honoured in street names and statues, protests have been growing over his legacy.

More than 64,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Brussels take down its Leopold II statues.

There have been numerous calls to strike down symbols of colonialism around the world as the Floyd protests enter their third week.

In Britain, a crowd of protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into a Bristol harbour on Sunday.

Statues of Confederate leaders who fought in defence of slavery have also been removed in the US, where they have long been a subject of controversy.

Dailymail / Balkantimes.press


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