A report says the statue of former Belgian King Leopold II was removed after a fire broke out last week during a global unrest over the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Protesters in Antwerp have long criticized the 150-year-old statue as a symbol of the country’s violent colonial past. Leopold II conquered the Congo at the end of the 19th century and ruled a brutal regime, plundered the land for personal gain and left 10 million dead. The Brussels Times reports.
To alleviate the anger over the monument, Antwerp added signs in 2018 to contextualize the colonial rule of Belgium.
But the statue was completely dismantled after suffering “extensive damage” during Tuesday morning’s fire, and officials say it will be moved to the Antwerpen Middelheim Museum for restoration.
“The statue will be demolished, removed and temporarily placed in the Middleheim Museum’s sculpture collection, which will be restored,” Johann Vermont, a spokesman for Antwerp Mayor Bart de Wever, told The Brussels Times.
Officials said they did not know when the redevelopment would be completed, but that the redesign of the once-defunct public space meant it would never return.
“Since the statue’s standing square will be redesigned in 2023, there will be no space after that, and it will remain part of the museum’s collection,” Vermont said.
The statue is one of many dedicated to Leopold II in Belgium, and the Brussels Times reports that authorities are now considering the removal.
This is just one of many controversial statues around the world – including the United States – that have been linked to the recent civil unrest over racism and police brutality.
In the US, protesters successfully demanded the removal of the statue in controversial former mayor Frank Rizzo of Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, demonstrators in the south are targeting Confederate monuments. A statue in Richmond is confronted by Confederate General Robert E. Wright. Virginia is seeking to oust Lee, which was largely destroyed during recent protests.
Demonstrators in the Virginia capital have already taken it topple another Confederate statue of General Williams Carter Wickham.
In the UK, protesters pulled the bronze statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston on Sunday and dumped it in Bristol Harbor.