A COUNCIL has today backed down over their plans to pull down the statue of Robert Baden-Powell after Scouts formed a ring of steel around the memorial.
Robert Baden-Powell was honoured with the memorial in Poole, Dorset, 12 years ago – with critics now calling for it to be pulled down over concerns he was racist, homophobic and a supporter of Adolf Hitler.
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But former Scouts and locals have today staged their own protest this morning after the statue appeared on a Black Lives Matter hit-list.
Activists have drawn up the “Topple the Racists” list of monuments they want removed from around the UK after demonstrations were sparked over the death of George Floyd in the US.
Protests in Bristol already saw the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston, with the memorial to Winston Churchill controversially daubed with the word “racist”.
And Scouts, dressed in their full uniforms, today saluted in front of the figure of Sir Baden-Powell in Dorset as supporters formed a human shield around the statue.
The council will now provide 24-hour security for the statue.
Former Queen’s Scout Len Bannister, 79, was among the crowd defending the statue, telling ITV News: “If they want to knock this down – they’ll have to knock me down first.”
Mr Bannister added: “It’s absolutely crazy. Who’s it that actually wants to do it? I’ll fight them off. I’m actually very angry – and I’m not a protester. I’ve had a lot of enjoyment because of him in my life because of him.”
One person cried out “don’t give in to thuggery”.
And Scout Matthew Trott, 27, travelled over 100 miles from his home in Cwmbran, Monmouthshire, to Poole to salute the statue.
He said: “Baden-Powell is a hero to me. Everyone has made mistakes and most of what has been written about him is not true.”
Councillor Mark Howell, the Deputy Leader of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council told The Sun Online: “It’s not being taken down today.
“It is likely to be taken down because we are trying to protect it and that is the best way to do that.”
And he said the memorial was particularly “vulnerable” as it was easily accessible and had parts that could be broken off.
But he said that the plan was to return the statue back to its original spot after the controversy had died down.
He added: “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.
“Should the statue be removed temporarily, barring unforeseen circumstances we will return it to the Quay as soon as the threat level subsides.”
Today has seen dozens of people flock to the statue to stop it from being removed.
Workmen had arrived with a crane to move the statue this morning to move it into storage but were unable to.
Owen Diffey, 19, a former assistant scout leader, said he would stand guard to stop the statue being removed if it came to it.
He said: “I’ll be here until they try to remove it.
“I am disgusted at what’s going on. They are making something political of a non-political organisation that stands for nothing but equality.”
And one local MP today tried to blame the police for the decision to move the statue.
Local Tory MP Conor Burns wrote on Twitter this morning: “The removal of the statue of Lord Baden-Powell from Poole is a huge error of judgement. Very concerned by the idea it is on advice from @dorsetpolice.”
He added: “Are we going to follow the example of the Met and Bristol and let the mob rule the streets?”
But Dorset Police spokeswoman said: “The decision on whether to remove the statue was not one for the police and no advice was given to remove it.”
Mark Howell, the local authority’s deputy leader, said the statue would only be removed to protect it, with the aim of it permanently remaining in its position overlooking Brownsea Island where Baden-Powell held his first experimental camp in 1907.
Mr Howell, an independent councillor, said: “The contractor was due to remove it on a temporary basis for it’s own protection but they didn’t want to work in a media circus.
“It will not happen today.”
The statue was put up in 2008 – 100 years after Baden-Powell launched the Boy Scout movement which now has 54million members worldwide.
On 1 August 1907 20 boys pitched their tents on Brownsea Island, in Poole harbour, effectively founding the worldwide movement.
But he later became sympathetic to Hitler, writing in his diary of 1939: “Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf.
“A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc.”
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council have been advised to put the statue in storage by the police.
They fear similar protests and violence as seen in demonstrations in the past week across Britain.
Who was Robert Baden-Powell?
He was born Robert Stephenson Smyth Powell in February 1857.
Baden-Powell served in the British Army from 1876 until 1910 in India and Africa.
He became a British national hero during the Second Boer War in South Africa for defending a garrison town for 217 days from 5,000 Boer troops
He effectively founded the scouting movement on 1 August 1907 when 20 boys pitched their tents on Brownsea Island, in Poole harbour.
He wrote Scouting for Boys in 1908.
In 1910 Baden-Powell retired from the army and formed The Scout Association.
Some modern historians branded him racist because he starved locals so he could feed his own soldiers.
Black Lives Matter supporters added the Poole statue to its ‘topple the racists’ list claiming was enthusiastic about Nazism and an admirer of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and his Hitler Youth movement.
Council leader Vikki Slade said: “Whilst famed for the creation of the Scouts, we also recognise that there are some aspects of Robert Baden-Powell’s life that are considered less worthy of commemoration.
“Therefore, we are removing the statue so that we can properly involve all relevant communities and groups in discussions about its future, including whether a more educational presentation of his life in a different setting might be more appropriate.”
She briefly visited the statue this afternoon but was confronted by angry locals who accused her of acting without public consultation.
The council claims that Dorset County Scouts was “supportive” of its decision.
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But Andrew Williams, the chairman of Poole Scout District Executive, said he wasn’t contacted about the shock move.
A spokesman for the Scouts said: “We are aware that Baden-Powell’s statue is being removed from Poole Harbour today.
“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.”
In 2010, declassified MI5 files revealed that Lord Baden-Powell was invited to meet Adolf Hitler after holding friendly talks about forming closer ties with the Hitler Youth.
Writing on Twitter, Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP for Bournemouth East, appeared to criticise the way in which the statue removal decision was reached.
He tweeted: “A wider overdue national debate has begun about who we were, who we are & where we should go.
“Few historical figures comply with 21st C values. Simply expunging past connections from sight won’t correct wrongs or help us better learn from our past.”
Sir Robert Syms, Conservative MP for Poole, tweeted that he was “opposed” to the permanent removal of the statue.
Meanwhile, the US state of Virginia is removing a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, which has been vandalised in the George Floyd protests.
Moves to tear down historic statues has sparked a furious debate.
The vice-chancellor of Oxford University has suggested Nelson Mandela would have firmly opposed attempts to “hide history”.
Prof Louise Richardson said the late South African president would have stood against the Rhodes Must Fall campaign to pull down statues in Oxford.
Tearing down the statue would amount to a “refusal to acknowledge our past”, she said.
She added: “Hiding our history is not the route to enlightenment.”