Statue of Controversial Belgian King Leopold II Removed After Sustaining Damage

A statue of Belgium’s former King Leopold II, known for overseeing atrocities in central Africa in the 19th century, has been taken down in the city of Antwerp after sustaining damage during anti-racism protests.

The statue was removed by the city on Tuesday after it has been covered in paint and set on fire several days prior, with a spokesman for Antwerp’s mayor Bart de Wever saying that the statue would be taken away to a museum where it would be repaired and refurbished.

Many groups have demanded the removal of the statues in the last 20 years including the Reparons l’Histoire group who, according to broadcaster YLE, have secured 64,000 signatures for a petition to permanently remove the statue.

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King Leopold II has been a controversial figure in Belgian history. He ruled over what was the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1905 and personally controlled the entire area, and personally profited from lucrative rubber exports.

Under his rule, the area saw mass mutilations of local Africans and the killings or deaths of as many as ten million people from factors such as starvation and disease.

While he profited personally from the Congo Free State, Leopold II was also known in Belgium as the “Builder King” with money acquired from Africa put toward building projects across the country.

While many Belgians have come out in favour of toppling Leopold II’s statues, others, such as Belgian politician Louis Michel, the father of current European Council President Charles Michel, have defended the former King.

“Leopold II was a true visionary for his time, a hero,” Louis Michel said in an interview in 2010.

The removal of the statue of the Belgian former monarch comes just days after leftists and Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists toppled a statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol slave trader and local philanthropist. After removing the statue, the activists rolled it into a nearby river.

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The weekend saw further attacks on statues in London during BLM protests in solidarity with protesters in the United States in the wake of the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

Among the statues vandalised were a statue of former Prime Ministers Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Robert Peel and attempts were made by one man to light the British flag of the war memorial the Cenotaph, on fire.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)

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