British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it’s “absurd and shameful” that a statue of Winston Churchill has had to be boarded up amid a wave of anti-racist sentiment.
As statues of colonialists are targeted by anti-racist groups around the world, a protective box was placed around the monument of the former prime minister.
In Australia, police clamping down on protesters in Sydney on Friday night formed a ring around Captain Cook’s statue after Scott Morrison earlier told people calling for its removal to pull their heads in and “get a grip”.
The Western Australian government plans to rename the King Leopold Ranges to remove the link to a former “tyrant” monarch responsible for the deaths of millions of people in Africa.
Meanwhile in New Zealand a statue of Captain John Hamilton – a British commander who fought Maori during 19th century wars – has been taken down by the Hamilton council.
As the UK prepared for more weekend demonstrations, Mr Johnson said on Twitter: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past.”
“The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny,” Johnson said.
“It is absurd and shameful that this national monument should today be at risk of attack by violent protesters.
“Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial.”
The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny. 1/8
— Boris Johnson #StayAlert (@BorisJohnson) June 12, 2020
The Churchill statue was earlier vandalised with the words “Was a racist”, while the Cenotaph, which has also now been protected, was also targeted.
In Bristol a statue of Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped in the harbour.
Fawlty Towers retort
As anti-racist sentiment sparks a rethink of popular television shows, John Cleese hit out at the removal of an episode of classic 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers from streaming service UKTV.
Broadcasters and streaming services have been re-evaluating their content after the death of George Floyd sparked protests around the world.
The famous “don’t mention the war” episode was removed because it contains “racial slurs” but on Saturday morning (Australian time) UKTV it would return to the platform “in the coming days”.
Guidance and warnings highlighting “potentially offensive content and language” will feature alongside the episode, it added.
Earlier UKTV, which is owned by BBC Studios, said it had temporarily made The Germans unavailable while it carried out a review.
Cleese told The Age newspaper that “if you put nonsense words into the mouth of someone you want to make fun of you’re not broadcasting their views, you’re making fun of them”.
“The Major was an old fossil left over from decades before.
“We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them.
“If they can’t see that, if people are too stupid to see that, what can one say?”
He said there was a “really admirable feeling that we must make our society less discriminatory” but said: “A lot of the people in charge now at the BBC just want to hang on to their jobs.
“If a few people get excited they pacify them rather than standing their ground as they would have done 30 or 40 years ago.”
The episode first aired in 1975 and sees Cleese’s misanthropic hotel owner Basil Fawlty goose-stepping around while shouting “don’t mention the war” in front of a group of visiting Germans.
It also contains scenes showing the Major Gowen character using offensive language about the West Indies cricket team.
“We regularly review older content to ensure it meets audience expectations and are particularly aware of the impact of outdated language,” a UKTV spokesman said.
“We want to take time to consider our options for this episode.”
HBO Max temporarily removed 1939 civil war epic Gone with the Wind because of its “racial depictions” and sketch series Little Britain had been taken down from iPlayer after come under fire recently because of the use of blackface in some sketches.
Netflix has removed four comedy shows featuring Australian performer Chris Lilley from its platform in Australia and New Zealand due to the controversial depiction of some characters.