Council puts 24-hour guard on Baden-Powell statue amid row over its future

11 June 2020, 14:25

The statue of Robert Baden-Powell has been earmarked for temporary storage
The statue of Robert Baden-Powell has been earmarked for temporary storage. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

A statue of Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell has been given 24/7 security after locals rallied against it being removed amid the ongoing debate about historical figures in Britain.

The figure of Baden-Powell has stood in Poole since 2008, after being built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Scouts in Britain.

The statue in Poole Quay, Dorset, had been targeted by campaigners due to his associations with the Nazis and the Hitler youth programme, as well as his actions in the military during the Boer War.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council initially said the statue would be removed and put into temporary storage to protect it from criminal damage, but backed down following furore from locals who vowed to protect it.

The decision has now been made to give the statue 24/7 security to ensure no criminal damage takes place until a decision is made to remove the monument, or if the threat diminishes.

Councillor Mark Howell 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.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said the statue would be removed and put into temporary storage over "concerns" about it.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said the statue would be removed and put into temporary storage over "concerns" about it. Picture: PA

"Should the statue be removed temporarily, barring unforeseen circumstances we will return it to the Quay as soon as the threat level subsides.”

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."

Read more: Edward Colston statue removed from water and will form 'part of museum collection'

Read more: Statue of slave owner Robert Milligan brought down in east London

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."

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, 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.

He added the final decision to temporarily take it down had not yet been made and said: "In terms of its long-term future, this statue stays here, Baden-Powell did an enormous amount of good, he created an organisation that brought people from different religions, ethnic backgrounds and races together and we are very proud of that in Poole and our connection to him.

Locals say they don't want the statue to be taken away
Locals say they don't want the statue to be taken away. Picture: PA

"This has been an emergency reaction because the police have advised us the statue is on the target list being circulated by protesters.

"This is an artwork and if it was damaged it wouldn't be easily repaired. There is no controversy about it being here, it's the right place for it."
The target list 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.

In Bristol, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into the harbour, and in London, a statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was removed.
A BCP council spokesman said: "Our role is to review community information and intelligence and identify threats in order to provide guidance and support to our partners.

"In this case, the Baden-Powell statue had been identified as a potential target and the local authority was made aware.

"The decision on whether to remove the statue was not one for the police and no advice was given to remove it."

Dorset Police said it would continue to "monitor intelligence" and work with partners to reduce crime, prevent disorder and ensure public safety.

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."

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