The protests against the killing of black people had taken another symbolic turn; as protesters are tearing down and defacing statues of Slave traders and oppressors. The statue of Leopold II, the oppressor who orchestrated the genocide in Congo has been defaced and set on fire in Belgium.
The bust of King Leopold II of Belgium, who orchestrated the colonial genocide of 10 million Congolese people, has been defaced by protesters in Ghent, Belgium.
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Various statues of the former Belgian king had already been vandalized in; Halle, Ostend, Ghent and Ekeren.
The statue in Ekeren was set on fire on Wednesday night after having been smeared in red paint last weekend. The bust in Ghent was also covered in red paint and marked ‘I can’t breathe,’; the final words of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose death at the hands of US police has sparked nationwide uprisings over police brutality and systemic racism.
Leopold II is criticised for his reign of terror in the Congo in the 19th century, when the territory belonged to him personally.
Leopold II Statue Petition
On Monday, a petition was launched demanding the removal of all statues of the former ruler from the City of Brussels. The petition already has over 38,500 signatures.
Criticism of Leopold II and his policy in the Congo was rekindled with the death of George Floyd and the massive protests that followed.
These protests are occurring not only in the United States. After a small Black Lives Matter demonstration in Brussels on Monday; the option of a larger protest on Sunday is being explored, though Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès has reminded people that demonstrations are still not allowed.
In July 2019, the city placed a sign in the park with the words; “The city council regrets the many Congolese victims who died during the Free State” after activists wanted the bust removed. Also, along with all other references, such as street names, to Leopold II and his colonial rule.