Poole's Baden-Powell statue boarded up instead of removed

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Baden-Powell statueImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay has been boarded up

A statue of Robert Baden-Powell - the Scouts movement founder who is accused of being a racist - has been boarded up instead of being temporarily removed.

It comes after a public outcry over the initial decision to put the Poole statue into safe storage.

The decision inflamed feelings over the statue and led to council leader Vikki Slade being verbally abused after giving interviews about its removal.

A petition to keep the statue in place has been signed more than 36,000 times.

Baden-Powell has been criticised by campaigners who have accused him of racism, homophobia and support for Adolf Hitler.

There had been fears over the monument since Black Lives Matter protestors tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A group of bystanders watched on as the statue was boarded up

'People were suspicious'

Mrs Slade, Liberal Democrat leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) council, said an "urgent decision" was made on Wednesday to temporarily remove the statue following police advice that it was "on a target list for attack".

A large public outcry on social media and an online petition followed, with protesters gathered at the quayside to show support for the statue on Thursday, and supporters camping overnight by the statue to ensure it was not vandalised.

Earlier, deputy leader Mark Howell said the initial removal plan had meant "some people were suspicious the council might not put it back".

He said: "We feel now that probably it's best to board it up."

Image caption,
Nick Tate was one of a group of protesters camping overnight to protect the statue

Nick Tate, from Poole, stayed in a tent next to the monument with two friends "to stop people trying to wreck it".

He said he was "over the moon" that the council had reversed its decision remove it.

"I'm a local lad, I've lived here all my live and the statue is important to us. You can't change the past, you can't change history," he explained.


Media caption,
Scout Monty, 12, says the statue should be left in place

Twelve-year-old Monty had also come in support of the statue with his father.

He said: "I do scouting and in scouting this is my lord, and he needs to stay here."

He added he was "annoyed" about the threats to the statue, and called it "disrespectful".

The strength of feeling had turned "aggressive" towards Mrs Slade, who said that, following an interview near the statue at Poole Quay on Thursday, "there were a lot of people [who] were getting in my face, getting quite unpleasant with finger-pointing".

Mrs Slade added residents had called her home and "unleashed a torrent of abuse", including towards her 15-year-old daughter.

'Statue should be replaced'

Image caption,
Saj Montgomery thinks the statue should be replaced with something 'scout-related'

Local resident Saj Montgomery also felt "intimidated" when she walked past the protesters.

She said: "Someone shouted out, 'are you for or against?' and I said I'm neither.

"As a person of colour I'm mindful that all of this stuff is coming out."

She added she now thought the statue should be removed and something "scout-related" put in its place.

Mr Howell said that boarding-up the statue was "not as secure as taking it away but we want to assure people it's going to be there in the long-term" and "scaffolding" around the monument would be taken down "when we go back to some kind of normality".

Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, said: "I'm proud to say that I'm a scout, benefitted from it as millions have done, and well done to those scouts who yesterday stepped forward to defend modern day values, to defend any vandalism and also - dare I say it - a rush to remove this statue without actually any debate."

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