A local authority in England has postponed the removal of a statue of Robert Baden-Powell, as residents vow to protect it from protesters.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council had announced that the statue of the founder of the Scout Movement – in Poole Quay, Dorset – would be temporarily taken down after it was put on a target list.
However, the planned removal has been delayed after the council realised the operation would require uprooting its deep foundations and heavy-lifting equipment.
The authority also announced it would be providing the statue with 24-hour security.
Campaigners had highlighted Baden-Powell’s associations with the Nazis and the Hitler youth programme, as well as his actions in the military.
Council leader Vikki Slade 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.” A crowd of local residents gathered around the statue on Thursday, vowing to protect it and to stop the council from removing it while also launching a petition to save 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.
He told the PA news agency: “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.”
He added: “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.
“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.
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.
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.”
Rover Scouts Matthew Trott and Christopher Arthur travelled from Cwmbran in Wales to express their support for the statue.
Mr Trott, 28, said: “He is my hero. I’d rather see the statue placed in a box in a warehouse for the moment rather than at the bottom of the harbour.
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.”