Activists remove statue of Belgian colonial King Leopold II in Brussels

BRUSSELS, June 12 (Reuters) - A statue of Belgium’s King Leopold II was removed from its plinth by activists in Brussels during Thursday night, Belgian broadcaster RTBF reported.

A Reuters journalist found only an empty plinth in the Auderghem neighbourhood on Friday and no sign of the statue of the king, who ruled the Congo Free State for much of his reign from 1865 to 1909.

Statues of the colonial-era monarch, whose troops killed and maimed millions of people in Congo, have become a focus of anger and debate in Belgium amid worldwide protests that followed the killing of black American George Floyd on May 25.

A number of representations of Leopold II have been vandalised, with statues burnt and daubed in red paint.

Separately, a statue of King Baudouin - Belgium’s second-longest reigning monarch after Leopold II - was found smeared bright red in a park in front of Brussels’ Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula on Friday. The word “reparation” was painted on the back.

“This is not how we proceed in a democracy. This is not how we put history back on the right track,” Auderghem Mayor Didier Gosuin told RTBF. “On the contrary, these are acts which shock, which block, which create tensions, conflicts.”

Gosuin said the municipality of Auderghem had a few days ago removed a sentence from a memorial that honoured “those who brought civilization to Congo”.

Demonstrations have swept the United States and there have been smaller protests across Europe since Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis.

Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine Editing by John Chalmers and Giles Elgood