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Leopold II bust pulled from pedestal in Brussels

Credit: Belga

In the Brussels’ municipality of Auderghem, a bust of former Belgian King Leopold II was pulled from its pedestal last night.

The statue stood near the Place du Souverain, confirmed a spokesperson of the local Marlow police zone (Uccle/Auderghem/Watermael-Boitsfort). Unknown perpetrators pulled the statue to the ground and splashed it with red paint.

A photograph of Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the independent Congo, who was later murdered, was placed on the pedestal where the statue stood, according to the Belga press agency. The photograph, however, has since been removed.

The police were called last night for the presence of about ten people at the square where the statue stood, but they had already disappeared when the officers arrived, according to police spokesperson Laurent Masset.

The bust in Auderghem is one of several monuments to the former Belgian King, who brutalised millions of Congolese people during his colonial reign, that have been defaced over the past few weeks, as activists want them removed following the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd in the United States.

The equestrian statue of Leopold II on the Place du Trône in Brussels has also been defaced earlier this week, and again last night, according to reports on social media.

On Tuesday, a statue of the former king was removed from its place in Antwerp for restoration, after it had been set on fire. It is possible that it will not be put back in place, but will instead be installed in Antwerp’s Middelheim park.

Brussels’ Secretary for Urbanism and Heritage, Pascal Smet, announced that he was willing to have the statues removed, and would ask the Brussels government to organise a debate on the future of the statues of King Leopold II in the Brussels-Capital Region.

Several petitions to remove monuments to the colonial king have been signed by thousands, with one targeting the statues in Brussels gathering over 75,000 signatures.

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Following Floyd’s death, other statues in Belgium have also been defaced, including at the Africa Museum in Tervuren, and in Ghent.

In the meantime, the University of Mons and the University of Leuven have removed statues and busts of Leopold II on their premises removed as well, following calls by students and teachers.

Education ministers in Belgium also said that an ongoing reform of the education programs would tackle colonialism on both Dutch-speaking and French-speaking schools.

“Most of our students do not hear about Belgian colonisation in the Congo or the exploitation and domination mechanisms used,” Francophone education minister Caroline Désir said in a video statement.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times