Local residents have vowed to fight to protect a statue of Robert Baden-Powell which is set to be removed temporarily for its protection after it was placed on a target list by protesters.
The statue of the founder of the Scout Movement in Poole Quay, Dorset, has been targeted by campaigners due to his associations with the Nazis and the Hitler youth programme, as well as his actions in the military.
Vikki Slade, leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, 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.
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.
He told the PA news agency: “We are considering whether we should remove it temporarily to protect the statue.
“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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”