Black Lives Matter protests in the U.K. over the weekend have seen historic statues defaced and torn down.
The protests, which began in the U.S. following the death of black man George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody, have now spread around the world.
According to the BBC, 27 police officers were injured when thousands of protesters descended on London over the weekend, including a Mounted Branch officer knocked from her horse at Downing Street who suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs and bones.
Statues of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were graffitied, while other statues were thrown into the harbor by protesters taking part in demonstrations from London to Bristol.
Statues of Winston Churchill & Abraham Lincoln Scaled & Defaced
The weekend kicked off with protesters climbing up on a statue of WWII era British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on Saturday, and writing the words “was a racist” on the base:
The Sir Winston Churchill Statue in Parliament Square, Westminster has been defaced already…
— London & UK Crime.. (@CrimeLdn) June 6, 2020
Later in the day, the names of black people who died while in police custody were scrawled on the Lincoln Statue at Parliament Square. The words “we will succeed” were also spray-painted on the statue:
— Mohammed Abbas (@MohammedAbbas79) June 6, 2020
The national monument and Lincoln Memorial in Washington were also damaged in protests last week.
The Lincoln statue is a fully-sized replica of the statue of President Lincoln at Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
The 16th President of the United States was responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which freed around 20,000 slaves held in Confederate territory. He was assassinated in 1865 at Ford’s Theater in Washington by confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth while watching a British play, “Our American Cousin.”
Protesters in Bristol targeted a monument to Edward Colston, a British philanthropist and slave trader active in the 1600s and 1700s. The protesters pulled the statue down before throwing it into the harbor:
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) June 7, 2020
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the removal of the statue an undemocratic, “criminal act.”
Speaking with the BBC today, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees called the statue “an affront to me and people like me.”
An online petition for the removal of the statue had previously garnered over 11,000 signatures.
Unrest Raises Questions Regarding Racism & Relegating Historical Figures to the Past
While President Bush revered the statue of Churchill that sat on a desk in the White House, and kept it there throughout his presidency as a talisman against fascism in America, when Barack Obama moved in, he had the statue removed. His Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, had been a dissident during Churchill’s empire and had been imprisoned without trial for two years, according to The Independent. In relation to Churchill, the paper reported:
As Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, he unleashed the notorious Black and Tan thugs on Ireland’s Catholic civilians, and when the Kurds rebelled against British rule, he said: “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes…[It] would spread a lively terror.”
An op-ed was published in the Washington Post in 2018 where Indian politician Shashi Tharoor said it was “a mystery why a few bombastic speeches have been enough to wash the bloodstains off Churchill’s racist hands.”
However, academic website The Churchill Project claimed Tharoor had taken comments made by Churchill in May 1919 out of context.
Churchill was arguing for what he believed with good reason to be a more humane ammunition than high explosive shells or highly lethal gas canisters. The “poison gas” he was in favor of using was tear gas, not phosgene or chlorine.
Churchill’s alleged racism was discussed at length in the 2010 book “Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II” by Madhusree Mukerjee.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Arthur Herman published a book “Gandhi & Churchill,” detailing the recorded facts of all Churchill and his cabinet achieved in aid of the people of Bengal. In 2017, he published an article proposing that “without Churchill, Bengal’s famine would have been even worse.”
Discussing Abraham Lincoln in the book “Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War,” Fred Kaplan examines Lincoln as an “‘antislavery moralist’ – someone who spoke against slavery but failed to take action against it,” and compares him with Adams, who he calls an “antislavery activist.”
Young Soldiers Filmed Cleaning Graffiti Off Whitehall Memorial
Army training… https://t.co/MndyjJ7KRf
— Neil (@NeilNeilduffy) June 4, 2020
Soldiers from the Household Cavalry faced online criticism when they left their barracks near Hyde Park in London to scrub graffiti off the Earl Haig Memorial on Whitehall in Westminster, London.
British firefighter and trade unionist Paul Embery said on Twitter that did not agree with bystanders “berating” those cleaning the graffiti.
I’m with the kids cleaning the memorial, not those berating them. pic.twitter.com/IN8j3HdB3A
— Paul Embery (@PaulEmbery) June 4, 2020
There were other reports that protesters who had surrounded a war memorial in Plymouth “to protect it from Black Lives Matter activists” had become abusive to passers-by.
The Plymouth Herald reported that a young woman had been subjected to alleged sexual harassment as she passed by a large group of men, who claimed to have been “‘protecting’ the city’s prominent war memorial from Black Lives Matters protesters” on the weekend.
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