Statue of Leopold II, Belgian King Who Brutalized Congo, Is Removed in Antwerp

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tags: colonialism, racism, Congo, Belgium, African history

BRUSSELS — A 150-year-old statue of King Leopold II of Belgium, whose forces seized Congo in the late 19th century and ran an exploitative regime that led to the deaths of millions, was removed from a public square in Antwerp on Tuesday, as protests against racism continued around the world.

It was a striking moment for a country that has struggled, at times, to reckon with one of the most sordid eras in the history of European colonialism. For decades, many Belgians were taught that the country had brought “civilization” to the African region, and some have defended Leopold as a foundational figure. Streets and parks are named after him, and statues of the king can be found throughout the country.

Yet there has been growing pressure in recent years, particularly from younger Belgians, to confront the country’s legacy in central Africa — a movement bolstered by worldwide protests prompted by the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of the Minneapolis police.

Last week, the statue in Antwerp was set on fire. This week, another statue of Leopold in the city of Ghent was covered in red paint. During a protest in Brussels on Sunday that drew more than 10,000 people, some climbed on another statue of Leopold and flew a giant flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo, chanting “murderer” and “reparations.”

As of Tuesday evening, 65,000 people had signed a petition to remove all statues of Leopold II from across the country.

Read entire article at The New York Times