The New Zealand city of Hamilton yesterday removed a bronze statue of the British naval officer for whom it is named — a man who is accused of killing indigenous Maori people in the 1860s.
The removal by city authorities came a day after a Maori tribe asked for the statue be taken down and one Maori elder threatened to tear it down himself.
Cities around the world are taking steps to remove statues that represent cultural or racial oppression as support grows for the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police last month in Minneapolis.
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said that a growing number of people found the statue personally and culturally offensive.
“We can’t ignore what is happening all over the world and nor should we,” Southgate said. “At a time when we are trying to build tolerance and understanding between cultures and in the community, I don’t think the statue helps us to bridge those gaps.”
The city was originally called Kirikiriroa by the Maori community. In the 1860s, it was renamed after Captain John Hamilton, a British officer who was killed in the infamous Gate Pa battle in the city of Tauranga.
The statue was gifted to the city in 2013, but the Waikato-Tainui community formally requested on Thursday for it to be removed.
City authorities said it was clear that the statue was going to be vandalized after Maori elder Taitimu Maipi this week told news organization Stuff that he planned to tear it down himself.
Hamilton was being represented as a hero when he was “murderous” and a “monster,” he said.
City authorities said they have no plans to change the city’s name at this point.
Southgate said that any name change would need to be discussed by the whole council and with Maori leaders, adding that she personally thought that the name Kirikiriroa was “particularly beautiful” and often used it in speeches.
Other statues of historic figures are coming under scrutiny, including explorer Captain James Cook.
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