A statue of King Leopold II who reigned over the death and exploitation of millions of Congolese people in the late 1800’s was defaced and taken down. This comes after the death of African American George Floyd who was murdered by a white police officer in the US state of Minneapolis who knelt on his neck for 9 minutes until he couldn’t breathe. His death led to the rise of protests all over the world campaigning for Black lives and fighting police brutality.
Protesters clambered over another Leopold statue, chanting “reparations” and waving the Democratic Republic of Congo’s flag in a post posted on social media. Tens of thousands of people had signed a petition to remove all statues of Leopold whose troops in Congo were the cause of a reign of terror in Congo. The statue of the colonialist was removed from the Antwerp in the suburb of Ekeren to be cleaned and restored but it remained unclear whether the statue would be restored to its former place.
A parliamentary assistant in the Brussels Parliament and an activist focusing on the representation of African minorities in Belgium, said Floyd’s death had given momentum and attention to a conversation about race and Belgium’s colonial history that activists like herself had been having for years. “We have a lot of history that a lot of people don’t know about and it really impacts people of colour and particularly black people in Belgium,” she said. “A lot of the white majority citizens in Belgium do not understand why black people are so angry because they have never been taught about it.” the Black Lives Matter campaign has opened the eyes of many to he many injustices that used to happen, and continue to happen, to black people world over.
King Leopold gathered a huge fortune bases on the ivory trade and then rubber. He used a private army to coerce Africans to gather wild rubber from the vines of the rainforest and his army would also seize women and children of villages to force men to collect rubber in quotas that increased on a whim. Men were regularly worked to death, while hostages sometimes starved. Naturally, there were rebellions against the “proprietor,” who suppressed them with particular cruelty: His troops were ordered to produce the severed hand of a rebel for each bullet they expended. That meant if the troops shot and missed, they would sometimes cut the hand off a living person. Led by white officers, the troops themselves were often Africans, making them complicit in the trauma the colony suffered. Historians estimate that under Leopold’s misrule, 10 million people died.