Mandela and Gandhi statues join Winston Churchill in being freed

Mandela and Gandhi statues join Winston Churchill in being freed from protective metal boxes to look over Parliament Square once more

  • Workers have removed the protective boards around the statues of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela in London 
  • Comes after  box around Sir Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square was uncovered on Wednesday
  • Move comes as French president Macron touched down in London today and was greeted by Prime Minister 

The statues dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela emerged once again in Parliament Square today after workers removed the metal boards covering the iconic leaders on the same day the French President made his visit to the capital. 

Construction workers, dressed in protective clothing and equipped with harnesses, set to work removing each of the protective metal boards covering both monuments today as President Emmanuel Macron made his arrival to London.

The move come just a day after workers dismantled the metal boards covering Sir Winston Churchill’s statue, which was boarded up along with those of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi on June 12, after it was daubed with graffiti accusing him of being a ‘racist’. 

Today, the bronze sculpture of Gandhi, the civil rights activist who led the campaign for India’s independence from British rule, made an appearance once more. 

The statue, which was initially unveiled in London in 2015 and shows the activist wearing a shawl with his hands clasped, stands at nine feet tall and was designed by the British sculptor Philip Jackson.

The statue dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi emerged once again in Parliament Square, London, today after it was boarded up earlier this month amid the Black Lives Matter protests

Workers, dressed in hard hats and protective clothing, removed the metal boards covering the former President of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela today

The monument dedicated to the Indian civil rights activist Gandhi, who led the successful campaign for India’s independence, emerged once again

Meanwhile the monument dedicated to the former President of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist Mandela overlooked Parliament Square again as workers began to remove the scaffolding around it. 

In 2007, Nelson Mandela, arrived to London to pay tribute to the anti-apartheid campaign as the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled the towering statue outside the Houses of Parliament in his honour. 

Speaking to his supporters in Westminster on the day, Mandela said: ‘The history of the struggle in South Africa is rich with the stories of heroes and heroines, some of them leaders, some of them followers. All of them deserve to be remembered.

‘Though this statue is of one man, it should, in actual fact, symbolise all those who have resisted oppression, especially in my country.’ 

Both monuments dedicated to the iconic leaders were initially boarded up amid the Black Lives Matter protests which swept over the capital and saw demonstrators and far-right activists clash with police following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. 

The scenes come as President Macron was earlier welcomed to Britain with a ceremony of pomp and pageantry as he marked the 80th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast following the Nazi invasion of France. 

He spoke after the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall greeted him at their official London home of Clarence House in the pouring rain – but all remained two metres apart, following coronavirus social distancing guidelines.

The French president is visiting England, without his wife Brigitte who is undergoing an eye operation back in Paris, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of his predecessor General De Gaulle’s ‘Appel’.  

Ahead of the French President’s arrival London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office confirmed that boarding would be removed around Sir Winston’s statue.

A spokesman said: ‘The covering around the Winston Churchill statue will be removed for the visit of President Macron to London.

‘But the protective coverings around the statues of Mandela and Gandhi, which the mayor is also responsible for, will stay in place ‘under review’.   

Yesterday a DBR worker, who went by the name of Winston and who was originally tasked with removing the graffiti from Sir Winston’s statue, feared it could take ‘all night’ to remove the vandalism which is set deep into the rough stone. 

Workers arrive to remove the metal boards covering the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, just a day after the box surrounding the statue of Sir Winston is removed

The bronze sculpture of Mandela overlooks Parliament Square in London once more after being boarded up amid the Black Lives Matter protests

A worker wearing  face mask and a harness sets to work removing the metal box around the anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela

The statue dedicated to the Indian civil rights activist Mahatma Gandhi begins to emerge as workers remove the metal covering

The Gandhi statue is pictured at Parliament Square in Westminster this morning having had the boarding taken down

Workers wearing face masks arrive to Parliament Square in the nation’s capital to remove the boards covering Gandhi

The DBR London worker said: ‘I’ve already got the paint out, but the ghosting is still there.

‘It’s rough granite so it’s going to be difficult to get into the actual stone itself. I think it’s going to take all night. I’m not happy honestly, because I’d rather be sleeping.’

He denied feeling the time pressure that comes with the President’s arrival, adding: ‘I know Macron is going to look at the statue, but there’s no pressure. It’s a job like any other.’

Winston has cleaned graffiti across London since 2006 and says that his job doesn’t allow him to take political sides.

He said: ‘I’m not allowed to voice political views. It doesn’t matter who put on the graffiti. As I said already, it’s just a job. At the end of the day, it happens all the time.’ 

Following Mr Khan’s decision to board up the monument dedicated to Sir Winston, the Prime Minister said it was ‘absurd and wrong’ to have to cover the statue of a ‘national hero’ to protect it from attack.

On the day it was boarded up, Mr Johnson said: ‘What makes me sad about what’s happening today is that you’ve got a situation in which the statue of Winston Churchill, who is a national hero, has had to be boarded up for fear of violent attack. That to me is both absurd and wrong.’ 

The Winston Churchill statue is pictured at Parliament Square in Westminster this morning having had the boarding taken down

The monument dedicated to the former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill is uncovered ahead of the French leader’s arrival today 

The towering statue of Churchill begins to emerge as workers set to work removing the protective boards around it

A worker, wearing protective clothing, removes the metal boards surrounding the statue of the former Prime Minister in Parliament Square 

Workers remove the protective metal  boards ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the capital

Members of staff remove the protective metal boards in preparation for the French President’s visit to London today

Workers arrived to Parliament Square in London yesterday to remove the metal box surrounding the statue of the former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill

The French premier’s visit marks the 80th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s appeal to the French population to resist the German occupation of France during the Second World War. 

His rallying call was broadcast on the BBC in June 1940, when he said: ‘I call upon all Frenchmen who want to remain free to listen to my voice and follow me.’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said it was ‘important’ for boarding around the Churchill statue to be removed ahead of Mr Macron’s visit. 

‘To have Churchill covered up at that point would not be a great look,’ he told the daily Downing Street briefing. 

Mr Khan was forced to defend his decision to cover Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square after criticism from the Home Secretary.

‘We should free Churchill, a hero of our nation, who fought against fascism and racism in this country and Europe.

‘He has given us the freedom to live our lives the way we do today,’ Priti Patel told the Daily Mail.

‘We have seen the desecration of war memorials, which is thoroughly unacceptable.

‘Now we’re seeing a national hero being boarded up.’ 

Police officers and construction workers arrive to Parliament Square in London as work begins on the removal of the protective board

Two workers wearing protective equipment climb onto scaffolding as they slowly begin to remove the boards around Sir Winston

Two police officers stand guard as workers set about removing the protective board around the statue in Parliament Square

One person carries a protective board over their head as work begins to remove the box surrounding the former Prime Minister

And the Prime Minister used an article in the Daily Telegraph to defend the statue and warn against attempts to ‘photoshop’ Britain’s cultural landscape.

He lauded Churchill as ‘one of the country’s greatest ever leaders’, saying it was the ‘height of lunacy’ to accuse him of racism.

‘I will resist with every breath in my body any attempt to remove that statue from Parliament Square, and the sooner his protective shielding comes off the better,’ he wrote.

However, Mr Khan said the decision to protect the statues in Parliament Square was a ‘wise’ precaution, fearing they could become a ‘flashpoint for violence’ involving extreme far-right protesters.

Those attending Saturday’s demonstration claimed to be guarding the statue of Winston Churchill as well as the Cenotaph.        

Macron, who displays de Gaulle’s war memoirs on his desk in his official photograph, is making much of 2020 as an anniversary year for the French resistance leader who would later become president of post-occupation France.

In May, he paid tribute to de Gaulle at the site of the 1940 Battle of Montcornet, one of few effective counter-attacks by French soldiers against the Nazis and where de Gaulle made his name as a military commander. 

On November 9, Macron is to mark the 50th anniversary of the general’s death by visiting his final resting place in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, eastern France.

He will award the Legion of Honour to London, making it the seventh city to be decorated with France’s highest order of merit, after Algiers, Belgrade, Brazzaville, Liege, Luxembourg and Volgograd.

Britain, which left the EU in January, is negotiating a trade deal to govern relations after December 31, when it stops abiding by EU rules. Macron has on occasion expressed impatience with the drawn-out Brexit process.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview with the French daily La Croix to be published on Wednesday that he still did not rule out a ‘no deal’ scenario.

He said the UK could not have ‘a foot in and a foot out’ of the EU and may not have ‘understood the full magnitude of their withdrawal’.  

French President Emmanuel Macron in December 2018. Macron will visit London on Thursday, which will be the 80th anniversary of a speech made by Charles de Gaulle after he was exiled from France during WWII

General Charles de Gaulle issues a call to the French people from London, England, June 18, 1940, just after the Nazi occupation of France. De Gaulle led the Free French Forces from London and later from Algiers throughout the occupation, and returned to Paris on its liberation in September 1944

In his radio broadcast from London, de Gaulle urged all those who could to carry on fighting for France, words that laid the foundation of the resistance movement and helped keep alive hope that France would be liberated, as it finally was in 1944.

‘Has the last word been said? Should hope disappear? Is the defeat final? No! Believe me, I… tell you that nothing is lost for France,’ he said.

De Gaulle’s iconic stature and his defiant wartime spirit are being tapped into even more during the unprecedented challenges posed by the epidemic.

In a telling reflection of his status, the vandalisation of a bust of the general in northern France this week was met with a torrent of outrage. The statue in Hautmont was daubed in orange paint and with the slogan ‘slaver’.

‘De Gaulle was neither on the left nor on the right… He was above the parties,’ said French historian Michel Winock, author of a book on de Gaulle.

But he was also simply ‘a legendary hero, the man of June 18, the defiant fighter who embodies an epic, glorious France, an incorruptible man who never mixed up public money and his own account’, Winock said.

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