Former king's statue defaced as Belgium confronts colonial past

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Former king's statue defaced as Belgium confronts colonial past
A statue of King Leopold II of Belgium is pictured on June 4, 2020 in Antwerp after being set on fire the night before as a petition was launched on June 1 to remove all statues in honour of this colonial-era King from the City of Brussels amidst worldwide anti-racist protests following the death of George Floyd, a black US citizen who died after a white policeman kneeled on his neck for several minutes. JONAS ROOSENS / Belga / AFP.

BRUSSELS (AFP).- Statues of the late King Leopold II, a symbol of Belgium's bloody history as colonial power in central Africa, have been defaced as the US campaign for racial justice re-energises the struggle in Europe.

An anti-racist group called "Repair History" has demanded that all statues of Leopold, who ran and brutally exploited the then "Congo Free State" as a personal domain, be taken down.

And unknown vandals have targeted at least three of the statues.

Outside the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, near Brussels, a bust of the former monarch has been daubed with blood red paint and the three-letter tag "FDP" -- short for the French "fils de pute," or "son of a bitch," AFP journalists reported.

Similar apparent protests targeted statues in Antwerp and Ostend.

The graffiti comes amid renewed and more intense debate about Belgium's attitude to its colonial past.

June 30 marked the anniversary of Congo's eventual independence, and protests against a police killing in the United States have sparked similar movements around the world in countries where a black minority faces discrimination.

Belgium -- like France, Britain and other European powers -- has a troubled history in Africa, and Leopold II's personal involvement and profiteering in what was, even by the standards of the era, a brutal occupation has made him a touchstone in the debate.

By Friday afternoon a petition to have the city of Brussels take down his monuments had collected 60,000 names. On Sunday, another group linked to the "Black Lives Matter" movement will hold a street protest in the city against modern police brutality.

© Agence France-Presse

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