Black Lives Matter protests: Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi statues in London covered
The statues of Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square have been boarded up to prevent them from being targeted during Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that have sparked a review of historical figures in public places across the UK.
The statues of Churchill and Gandhi were targeted during Sunday’s large demonstration in London, while in Bristol, the statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into the Avon river.
As another major demonstration is planned for the weekend, London’s local officials boarded up statues of Churchill, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, as well as the Cenotaph (war memorial) in nearby Whitehall.
In Leicester, the local council said it would review the Gandhi statue on Belgrave Road, along with other statues, street and building names. An online petition seeking its removal was close to reaching the limit of 5,000 signatories before being submitted to the council.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that it is “absurd and shameful” that Churchill’s statue has been so targeted, and recalled the former prime minister’s contribution to British and European history, particularly during the Second World War.
He said in a series of tweets: “The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny”.
“It is absurd and shameful that this national monument should today be at risk of attack by violence protestors. Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial”.
Johnson, who wrote a biography of Churchill in 2014, added: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations”.
“They had different perspectives, different understandings or rights and wrongs. But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come”.
Appealing to people to stay away from demonstrations, Johnson alleged that the protests had been hijacked by extremists intent on violence. The attacks on police in recent protests, he said, were intolerant and abhorrent.
On the remove-Gandhi-statue petition in Leicester, former MP Keith Vaz said: “This is a dreadful petition that seeks to divide communities in Leicester and in the country. Those behind it know full well the consequences of what they are asking for. Gandhi’s statues in Leicester and London are an inspiration for peace, harmony and non violence”.
“He was one of the greatest peacemakers in history. If this is not withdrawn I will certainly refer it to the police to consider whether it incites racial hatred. We have come a long way in 33 years on racial equality but clearly there is a long way to go. If there is any attempt to remove it I will be there to defend it personally,” he added.
A Leicester City Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of an online petition, calling for a statue of Gandhi – funded by a charitable organisation and erected in Leicester in 2009 – to be removed”.
“Although this petition has not yet been submitted to us, these representations will be considered as part of a wider conversation about the context, relevance and appropriateness of street names, statues and monuments in the city”.
“In such a culturally-diverse city as Leicester, it’s important that we respect the histories of all our communities and understand the context for the historical references that are part of our streetscape and built environment.”