A statue of the controversial Belgian monarch Leopold II was removed from the alcove of Leuven Town Hall on Tuesday morning as part of a push from the city to break ties with its colonial past.
The decision to remove the statue was already taken a few months ago, alongside a broad movement in Belgium to remove references to the former King. Over the past year some cities and universities ultimately decided to pull down statues of the country’s colonial monarch, who exploited and brutalised Congolese people during his time as sole ruler of the Congo.
"Removing the statue has a human impact. We are thus acknowledging that even today, people are still suffering the consequences of the history of colonialism," said Alderman of Diversity Lalynn Wadera (SP.A) when the decision was made, according to local media.
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However, actually removing the status proved more difficult than in other places. Standing at one and a half metres the 200 kilograms plus statue stood in an alcove of the city hall, meaning it was incredibly difficult to take down. To deal with this, they built scaffolding.
Katrien Deckers, an architect with the City of Leuven buildings department told VRT."The scaffold was needed to get the people there. They cut the mortar loose and then very carefully slid wooden beams under it so that the statue could be gently removed from the niche. The statue was also lifted slightly to remove it from the hook".
Even once it was down, the statue could not leave the grounds of the town hall, due to the fact both the statue and the hall have protected status.
Instead, it is in the basement, where it is expected to remain.
The Brussels Times