Robert Baden-Powell statue to be given 24-hour security by council following protests

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

A statue of Robert Baden-Powell will receive 24-hour security instead of being removed after it was placed on a target list by anti-racism protesters, a council in England has said.

On Thursday, a group of local residents vowed to defend the statue of the founder of the Scout Movement in Poole Quay, Dorset, after the council said it would be temporarily removed.

The monument had been included on a list of statues to be toppled due to Baden-Powell’s associations with the Nazis and the Hitler youth programme, as well as his actions in the military.

Vikki Slade, leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, earlier tweeted the decision to remove it was taken following a "threat", adding: "It's literally less than 3m from the sea so is at huge risk.”

The council later changed its mind and decided to keep it in place after the council realised the operation would require uprooting its deep foundations and heavy-lifting equipment.

A person with a sign protesting 'British History Matters' alongside the statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay in Dorset. (PA)

A crowd of local residents gathered around the statue on Thursday, vowing to protect it and to stop the council from removing it.

Len Banister, 78, a former Scout, said of the Baden-Powell statue: "He is the reason I am still here, the pleasure he gives to so many people, they shouldn't take it down, I will fight them off.”

Spencer Tuck, 35, said: "Unfortunately he was in fascist times but there is more to it and this statue is nothing to do with racism, it's to do with the heritage of Poole.”

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Sharon Warne, 53, suggested controversial statues should have information panels installed explaining the positive and negative points about the figures they depict.

She said: "He had a bad past but he was the founder of the Scouts which today is a great organisation and it's ridiculous to get rid of him."

Mark Howell, the local authority's deputy leader, described the statue as “much-loved” and said it had been at risk of damage or destruction.

“We know that local people feel proud of Lord Baden-Powell’s and the Scout movement’s links with Poole, and that some people feel that we would be giving in to the protesters by temporarily removing the statue,” Cllr Howell said.

“However, we feel it is responsible to protect it for future generations to enjoy and respect.

“We will not be removing the statue today as the foundations are deeper than originally envisaged and we need further discussions with contractors on the best way to remove it safely.

“Although we cannot say when any temporary removal may take place, we will be providing 24-hour security until it is either removed or the threat diminishes.”

Rover Scouts Chris Arthur and Matthew Trott pose in front of a statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay in Dorset. (PA)
Local residents gather round a statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay in Dorset. (PA)

Locals drape the Robert Baden-Powell statue with flags as they defend its removal. (PA)

The target list – that includes Nelson’s Column in London – emerged following a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis last month.

A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan in West India Quay has already been removed over public safety fears, while graffiti was daubed over a Queen Victoria monument in Leeds.

A mural of George Floyd by the street artist Akse in Stevenson Square in Manchester's Northern Quarter. (PA)

The Scouts said in a statement: "We look forward to discussing this matter with Poole Council to make an informed decision on what happens next.

"Baden-Powell was the founder of the Scout movement. Currently there are over 54 million Scouts in the world and we operate in almost every nation on earth, promoting tolerance and global solidarity.

"The Scout movement is resolute in its commitment to inclusion and diversity and members continually reflect and challenge ourselves in how we live our values."