Statues of Queen Elizabeth II and her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria were toppled and trashed in Canada during angry protests over the disturbing discovery of hundreds of indigenous children’s graves.
Videos online show large crowds pulling down the statues in Winnipeg on Canada Day on Thursday, many chanting, “No pride in genocide.”
“I helped tear the bitch down,” said a caption to an online video of the toppling of 95-year-old reigning UK monarch Elizabeth II, who is Canada’s current head of state.
Other clips showed large crowds, mostly dressed in orange, screaming with joy when they destroyed a statue of Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901 when Canada was part of the British Empire.
“They removed Queen Victoria’s head,” tweeted Waabishkaa Ma’iingan Naakshig, a self-styled “warrior activist” who also posted a photo of him “kissing my Indigenous Goddess” atop the now-empty pedestal.
Others kicked and danced around the toppled statue, which was daubed in red paint hand marks. Elsewhere, Catholic churches have also been vandalized and daubed in similar hand-shaped red paint.
The protests followed the discovery of almost 1,000 unmarked graves at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan that were mainly run by the Catholic Church and funded by the government.
For 165 years and as recently as 1996, the schools forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnourishment and physical and sexual abuse in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide.”
The statues were attacked as protesters blamed the country’s colonial past.
In his Canada Day message, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the discoveries “have rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country’s historical failures.”
He called it “a time for reflection” as many cities scrapped traditional Canada Day celebrations, while a #CancelCanadaDay event saw thousands marching through the capital, Ottawa.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government condemned any defacing of statues of the queen.
“Our thoughts are with Canada’s indigenous community following these tragic discoveries, and we follow these issues closely and continue to engage with the Government of Canada on indigenous matters,” he said.