HALLE, Belgium — For a long time, few people in the small Belgian town of Halle paid much attention to the monuments. They were just fixtures in a local park, tributes to great men of the past.
But these are very different times, and yesterday’s heroes can be today’s racist villains.
And so it was that three weeks ago, a bust of Leopold II, the Belgian king who has been held responsible for the deaths of millions of Congolese, was spattered in red paint, labeled “Murderer,” and later knocked off its pedestal.
Nearby, a pale sandstone statue formally known as the “Monument to the Colonial Pioneers” has stood for 93 years. It depicts a naked Congolese boy offering a bowl of fruit in gratitude to Lt. Gen. Baron Alphonse Jacques de Dixmude, a Belgian soldier accused of atrocities in Africa.