A statue of Belgium’s colonial-era king, Leopold II, in Brussels has been defaced again only days after it was wiped clean of graffiti tags and anti-racist slogans smeared on it amid a surge of support for its removal.
A single message in big red letters was painted on the pedestal of the equestrian statue located in Place du Trône: “Stop cleaning, start reflecting.”
The newest act of defacement comes only ten days after authorities ordered the statue to be scrubbed clean after it was covered in graffiti tags in the aftermath of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstration in Brussels.
The march was organised in solidarity with the US police killing of George Floyd, which sparked a wave of support for anti-racist and anti-colonial movements across the world.
Previous messages inscribed on the statue read “assassin” (murderer) and “Black Lives Matter,” and “Pardon” was also scrawled across Leopold’s chest in white.
An inscription in English also read: “This man killed 15 million people,” referring to the highest estimated death toll of Congolese deaths during the former monarch’s brutal rule over what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Several statues of the coloniser king were also defaced across Belgium, and at least two have been removed from public space, one in Antwerp and another one in Ghent.
Additionally, the universities of Leuven and Mons have each removed Leopold II busts from display and placed them in storage following increasing calls for their removal.
A petition calling on the City of Brussels to pull down all monuments to Leopold II has gathered over 80,000 signatures since its launch.
A counter-petition calling for the statues to be kept on their pedestals, arguing that the former king “could not be held responsible for what they did during his rule,” has gathered more than 20,400 signatures.
The argument echoes comments by Belgium’s Prince Laurent, who in an interview to SudPresse said that he did not see how Leopold could have hurt Congolese people since “he never went there.”
Brussels Secretary of State, Pascal Smet, has said that a “quick decision” and signalled that he would be willing to take the statues down if an expert working group decides that it’s the best course of action.