The pedestal of former Winston Churchill statue in Prague became a target of Black Lives Matter movement supporters who vandalized the monument, scribbling “was a racist” and “Black Lives Matter” on the pedestal.
The incident caused outrage among many Czechs, with top politicians describing the act as an attempt to deface a historical monument.
“We must see historical figures in the context of the time in which they lived. Judging them without understanding the context is stupid and leads to such a stupid act,” said Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
Police officers have immediately started to investigate the incident at the Winston Churchill square, where the statue of this British politician stands, according to Czech portal E15.
“Officers will document the whole incident on the spot, securing evidence,” said Jan Rybanský, a spokesman of the Prague police department.
Furthermore, the Prague 3 municipal district, to which the statue belongs, sent an anti-graffiti team to erase the slogans.
“To us, it is a form of vandalism. We are not considering removing the statue,” said Lucie Bukovanská, a spokeswoman of Prague 3 City Hall.
Last Sunday, the inscription “was a racist” was spray-painted under Churchill’s name on a statue of the famed British wartime leader in front of the British Parliament in London, which is believed to have inspired the Czech copycats who police are still searching for.
The defacement of the Prague statue met with clear condemnation across the Czech political spectrum, with Czech politicians from opposition, the presidential office, and the ruling government denouncing the act.
“Unfortunately, an aggressive mutation of progressive thought has already arrived in Prague, and Czech supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, following the example of their Western comrades, have painted a statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill red, a symbol of victory over Nazism in World War II,” wrote István Léko, editor-in-chief of Lidové noviny, one of the most-read Czech dailies.
“The latest pastime of the mob, unequivocally supported by left-wing and ultra-liberal politicians, is to tear down, damage, and vandalize statues of various politicians or generals, who will be henceforth referred to as slavers and racists. Anyone who has a slightly different opinion on these figures risks being called racist oneself,” Léko pointed out.
Czech economist and politician Ivan Pilip also commented on the incident, condemning the vandalization of the statue.
“Yes, Churchill was a racist by today’s standards. But at the time, most people were. Ignoring historical circumstances is like blaming medieval rulers for issuing the death penalty,” he wrote on Twitter.
Petruška Šustrová, a former dissident who fought for the rights of unjustly prosecuted people during the communist era, also disagreed with the form of the current protests against police brutality and racism in the United States, although she did not mention the Prague statue per se.
“Removing statues and pulling ‘inappropriate’ movies from the Internet seems to be more like an attempt to erase the past, to conceal it. I think that if we want to change the present and the future, we must rather talk about the past, discuss it, point out what was wrong and what must not return. The statues, which are now being torn down, have contributed to the discussion about this matter quite well. The problem will not disappear by not talking about it,” Šustrová wrote in a commentary for Lidové noviny daily.
The absurdity of the protesters’ actions was also pointed out by Matyáš Zrno, a Czech commentator, who warned against the standards used by protesters to judge historical figures.
“If we applied them in the Czech environment, we would have to tear down the statue of St. Wenceslas, because his government profited from the slave trade (although he only invested money in Christian slaves redemption). Of course, we will also have to take down Žižka’s statue as he was not an epitome of tolerance, either. President Masaryk signed several death penalties and passed laws against sodomy. And what about Havel’s benches? Let’s break them! Havel smoked and liked to drive cars (the ones powered by gas),” commented Zrno, pointing out that activists could come up with accusations about any of the greatest heroes of Czech history.
Title image: The vandalized statue of Winston Churchill in Prague (Anežka Čermáková / seznamzpravy.cz)