The statue of Sir Winston Churchill in London’s Parliament Square has been uncovered ahead of a visit by French president Emmanuel Macron.
The famous statue was boarded up inside a box after being daubed with graffiti branding the wartime prime minister a racist during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest.
The landmark was one of several central London statues boarded up — including ones of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, as well as the Cenotaph — amid fears they would be damaged during protests.
A debate is raging on the future of statues across the UK after the statue to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol was torn down and dumped in the harbour. It has since been pulled out of the water and will go on display in a museum.
But the boards were removed from the statue of Churchill ahead of a visit from Macron on Thursday to mark 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.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said it “would not be a great look” for the statue to be covered during the visit.
A spokesman for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the boards around the former PM’s statue would be removed for the visit but that those around the Mandela and Gandhi statues would stay in place “under review”.
The boards around the Cenotaph were taken down on Monday night, English Heritage said.
The covering of statues has sparked widespread debate about their future in the UK.
Khan said the decision to protect the statues in Parliament Square was a “wise” precaution, fearing they could become a “flashpoint for violence”.
Home secretary Priti Patel told the Daily Mail: “We should free Churchill, a hero of our nation, who fought against fascism and racism in this country and Europe.”
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson used an article in the Daily Telegraph to defend Churchill’s record against claims of racism and to warn against attempts to “photoshop” Britain’s cultural landscape.