The New Zealand city of Hamilton on Friday tore down a statue of the colonial military commander after whom it was named, joining a growing list of places worldwide that are reckoning with their past.
A crane hoisted the bronze sculpture of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton from the town square Friday morning after requests from local Maori and threats from anti-racism protesters to topple it.
A controversial statue of Captain John Hamilton has been removed from Civic Square in Hamilton where it has stood since 2013.
— RNZ Te Ao Māori (@RNZTeAoMaori) June 12, 2020
New Zealand removes statue and acknowledges racist past
A small group of cheering spectators looked on.
Hamilton City Council acknowledged the statue’s extraction was part of a push to remove memorials “which are seen to represent cultural disharmony and oppression” sparked by global anti-racism protests.
“I know many people -– in fact, a growing number of people –- find the statue personally and culturally offensive,” mayor Paula Southgate said.
“We can’t ignore what is happening all over the world and nor should we. At a time when we are trying to build tolerance and understanding… I don’t think the statue helps us to bridge those gaps.”
Statues representing colonisation being torn down in US as well
Statues and place names honouring figures such as slavers and colonial military figures are being reassessed worldwide in response to anti-racism protests sparked by the police killing of African American man George Floyd.
A statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston has been beheaded, police said Wednesday, as calls to remove sculptures commemorating colonisers and slavers sweep America on the back of anti-racism protests.
A Columbus statue was also vandalized in downtown Miami, and another was dragged into a lake earlier in the week in Richmond, Virginia, according to local reports.
Italian explorer Columbus, long hailed by school textbooks as the so-called discoverer of “The New World,” is considered by many to have spurred years of genocide against indigenous groups in the Americas.
The incidents come as pressure builds in the United States to rid the country of monuments associated with racism following massive demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis last month.
A jogger running past the statue Wednesday said she approved of the decapitation.
“Just like black people in this country, indigenous people have also been wronged. I think this movement is pretty powerful and this is very symbolic,” she added.
Who was Hamilton?
Hamilton was a naval commander who fought indigenous Maori defending their land against British colonial expansion in the 19th century.
He died at the Battle of Pukehinahina, or Gate Pa, in 1864, when — in an early example of trench warfare — a group of Maori in a fortified encampment successfully fended off British troops and artillery, despite being outnumbered.
The statue was donated to the council in 2013 and the council said its removal came after a formal request from the regional iwi, or tribe, Waikato-Tainui.
Anti-racism protesters had vowed to tear it down at a demonstration this weekend, with activist Taitimu Maipi labelling Hamilton a murderer.
“How can we accept that he’s a hero when he’s a monster who led battles,” Maipi told the Waikato Times.
Waikato-Tainui praised the statue’s removal, saying it was discussing other problematic colonial names and symbols with Hamilton council, including the prospect of restoring the city’s original Maori name Kirikiriroa.
“This was a devastating time for our people and these injustices of the past should not be a continual reminder as we look to grow and develop our beautiful city into the future,” iwi chairman Rukumoana Schaafhausen said.
Hamilton council said the fate of the British commander’s statue and what, if anything, should replace it were still under discussion.
City council decides to remove statue before protestors tear it down
Elder Taitimu Maipi announced his intention to tear down a statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton, after whom the city was named, during a protest match on Saturday.
“I went up to my tribe today and told them I’m taking the statue out, I left my name at Hamilton City Council and said I’m taking it out,” he told Stuff earlier this week.
“How can we accept that he’s a hero when he’s a monster who led battles?”
Citing community backlash and safety concerns, Hamilton City Council leaders decided to winch the life-sized bronze figure out of Civic Square on Friday, amid cheers from a few onlookers.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
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