People gather outside the boarded-up statue of Winston Churchill in London's Parliament Square on June 13, 2020.
Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images
  • A statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in London's Parliament Square was covered with a protective barrier on Friday.
  • On June 7, protesters defaced the statue, writing the the words "was a racist" on the monument.
  • Emma Soames, the granddaughter of Churchill, told the BBC that she understands why the monument was covered but thinks it might be "safer" in a museum.
  • In her interview with the BBC, Soames said it's "extraordinarily sad" that her grandfather, "who was such a unifying figure in this country, appears to have become a sort of icon through being controversial."
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Amid the ongoing anti-racism protests around the world, officials in London placed a protective covering over a statue of former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill that stands in the city's Parliament Square.

On June 7, the base of the Churchill statue was defaced during a protest. The former leader's engraved last name was covered in paint, and the phrase "was a racist" was written on the monument.

Protests have erupted across America and many other countries after the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. The latest target for many anti-racism activists has been statues and monuments commemorating historical figures such as Confederate leaders, conquerors, slaveholders, or other formerly celebrated people whose racist views were commonplace in past eras, but have sparked a modern reckoning.

Workers create a scaffold around the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, June 11, 2020.
Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The following Friday, officials created a barrier around the statue and covered it with what looks like a box to prevent further damage as protests continue in the UK and around the world.
Workers create a barrier around Winston Churchill's statue in Parliament Square.
Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images
Churchill's granddaughter, Emma Soames, spoke about the protests and the damage to her grandfather's statue in a recent installment of the BBC's Radio 4 Today program.

Soames told the BBC that she thinks her grandfather held views that "particularly now are regarded as unacceptable but weren't necessarily then."

"He was a powerful, complex man, with infinitely more good than bad in the ledger of his life," Soames said.

A poster on the covering of Winston Churchill's Parliament Square statue reads "Do not try to destroy our history. Keep our history and learn from it so the same mistakes don't happen again."
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images
Soames said she was "shocked" to see her grandfather's monument covered but said it was necessary. She suggested on the radio episode that the statue may be "safer" if it were placed in a museum.

"But I think Parliament Square would be a poorer place without him," Soames added.

Winston Churchill holds his granddaughter Emma Soames in this circa 1951 photograph.
Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images
"We've come to this place where history is viewed only entirely through the prism of the present," Soames continued.

She said on the radio show that it is "extraordinarily sad that my grandfather, who was such a unifying figure in this country, appears to have become a sort of icon through being controversial."

Critics of the former prime minister point to his views on race and that he at one point expressed support for the use of chemical weapons.

"I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes," Churchill once wrote in a memo, cited by the BBC.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson denounced the damage done to the Churchill monument during recent protests, writing that the statue of the World War II leader "is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country - and the whole of Europe - from a fascist and racist tyranny."

Johnson wrote on Twitter that Churchill "sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial."

Authorities in London also blocked off Parliament Square memorials of Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela in light of ongoing protests in relation to systematic racism.

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