The vandalism of several statues in Flanders has left locals questioning the motivations of the damage, after a statue of Julius Caesar - not Leopold II - was defaced over the weekend.
The statue of Caesar in Velzeke, in Zottegem (East Flanders), was damaged during the night of Saturday to Sunday, with the word 'krapuul' (crook) scrawled on the base of the statue. The spear that Caesar held in one hand was also torn off.
An investigation has been opened into the vandals. "We will estimate more precisely on Monday the extent of the damage and the repairs to be carried out. These will be at the expense of the perpetrators," said Mayor Jenne De Potter (CD&V).
A kilometre further on, marble statues in the garden of the cloister of Saint-Antoine were also damaged, potentially by the same individuals.
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It is not yet clear whether there is a link with the wider backlash that started in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, but Zottegem has said it does not assume a connection to wider actions across Belgium.
Within Belgium, there has been a particular focus on depictions of King Leopold II, who declared himself sole owner and ruler of the Congo Free State in the late 1800s, brutalising Congolese people to extract resources from the colonised territory for his personal gain.
Extensive accounts and records of forced labour and systemic brutality characterised Belgium’s occupation and rule over the Congo, with millions estimated to have died as a result of the country’s colonial exploits.
In the past weeks, statues of the king have been removed from public spaces across the country, following backlash and vandalism as anti-racism protests build momentum across the world.
The Brussels Times