British far-right protesters want London’s Nelson Mandela statue torn down
Reacting to growing calls for the removal of statues that celebrate dubious historical figures, the extreme fringe of Britain’s far-right have suggested that a statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament square should also go.
The statue has been boarded up along with numerous other publicly displayed figures for fear they may be damaged, either by anti-racism protesters or the counter-protesters from far-right groups.
STATUE OF NELSON MANDELA COVERED
In earlier protests, the statue of Nelson Mandela, erected in 2007 to commemorate South Africa’s first democratically elected president, remained largely untouched barring the placement of placards on or around the likeness of Madiba.
Among the most vocal of the counter-protesters is Britain First leader Paul Golding, who has previously been convicted of racist harassment as well as a terror offence as recently as May 2020.
Golding has been barred from attending any demonstrations as a result of his previous convictions but has turned up at counterprotests across London.
His group and like-minded individuals say they have been angered by incidents of vandalism perpetrated against national monuments.
War memorials and a statue of Winston Churchill were spray-painted with the words ‘was a racist’.
In response, counter-protesters have gathered around monuments, particularly those depicting figures with a history of racism, while some of their group have been shown defacing other public monuments.
GOLDING TAKES POTSHOTS AT MADIBA
Golding said that most statues were British heritage but called for the removal of the statue of Mandela.
Speaking to reporters at a protest this week, Golding said: “Why should we have a communist terrorist mass murderer in the capital city of England? It doesn’t make any sense.
“We would like to see that one go, on good grounds, but the rest of them are our historical heritage.”
Police have been deployed to hotspots across London with the protests and counter-protests expected to continue in the coming week.
Golding insists that the counter-protesters are only out to ensure the protection of national monuments. He accused both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and London Mayor Sadiq Khan of inaction against protesters whom he called ‘thugs’.
“I am extremely fed up with the way that the authorities have allowed two consecutive weekends of vandalism against our national monuments.
“Anyone who comes along today to try and vandalise them will probably be dealt with by all of these Englishmen that turned up, and they’re fed up as well.”
Over 100 at violent counter-protests in London on Saturday including a 28-year-old man who was seen urinating next to a memorial of PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the 2017 Westminster attack.
Police reportedly had to request that a Tesco’s close to the gathering stop selling alcohol to those gathered in Westminster.
WHY IS THERE A STATUE OF NELSON MANDELA IN LONDON?
The history of South Africa has been massively shaped by the country’s time under the colonial rule of Britain which for better or worse means they remain inextricably linked.
Britain’s influence in South Africa may have waned somewhat after the country first declared itself a republic under white minority rule after a 1960 referendum, but their rule left an indelible impression.
That influence can be seen in everything from place names to the structures of prominent schools.
A statue of Queen Victoria still stands in the centre of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal is another lingering impression, which is itself the subject of debate.
In 2004 the mayor of London Ken Livingstone got behind an initiative to place a monument to Mandela in London.
Originally he intended to have the statue placed in Trafalgar square, hoping to create a square of two iconic Nelson’s.
He said: “It will be a square of two Nelsons. The man up there, his battle of Trafalgar was the defining battle that paved the way for 100 years of British empire, and Nelson Mandela looking down on this square will symbolise the peaceful transition to a world without empires.”
The statue would eventually find its home in Parliament Square alongside other prominent figures including Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Disraeli, Jan Smuts, and Winston Churchill.