The New Zealand city of Hamilton has removed a bronze statue of the British naval officer for whom it is named after a request by the country’s indigenous people.
Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton is accused of killing indigenous Maori people in the 1860s, with the removal of the statue by city authorities coming a day after a Maori tribe requested it and one Maori elder threatened to tear it down himself.
Cities around the world are taking steps to remove statues that represent cultural or racial oppression as support grows for the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd by police last month in Minneapolis.
Demonstrations have taken part across the UK and there are concerns over the protection of monuments after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped in Bristol’s harbour.
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said in a statement that a growing number of people found the statue personally and culturally offensive.
She 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 between cultures and in the community, I don’t think the statue helps us to bridge those gaps.”
The city was originally called Kirikiriroa by Maori but it was renamed in the 1860 after Captain Hamilton, a British officer who was killed in the infamous Gate Pa battle in the city of Tauranga.
The statue was gifted to the city in 2013 and the Waikato-Tainui tribe, or iwi, formally requested on Thursday for it to be removed.
We can’t ignore what is happening all over the world and nor should we,Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate
City authorities said it was clear the statue was going to be vandalized, after Maori elder Taitimu Maipi this week told news organisation Stuff that he planned to tear it down himself.
Mr Maipi said Hamilton was being represented as a hero when he was “murderous” and a “monster”.
City authorities said they have no plans to change the city’s name at this point.
Hamilton is the nation’s fourth-largest city with 160,000 people, about one-quarter of whom are Maori.
Meanwhile in Australia, hundreds of police disrupted plans for an anti-racism rally in central Sydney, but protest organisers vowed that other rallies will continue around Australia over the weekend despite warnings of the coronavirus risk.
Police ringed Sydney Town Hall hours before around 3,000 people were expected to attend the rally. Police vans were parked in side streets in preparation for mass arrests for breaching a 10-person limit on public gatherings because of the pandemic.
Prime minister Scott Morrison urged police to charge protesters with breaching pandemic restrictions, adding: “The very clear message is that people should not attend those events, because it is against the health advice to do so.”