Firefighters in the central German city of Wiesbaden removed a controversial golden statue of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan overnight. Local authorities said “security could no longer be guaranteed.”
Public broadcaster ZDF reported that police had to “protect” the statue from angry residents, as well as separating some Kurdish and Turkish Germans following a “fierce confrontation.”
Footage obtained by Ruptly shows at least two dozen police officers in protective gear walking from the statue towards a group of demonstrators in order to push them away from the square on Tuesday night. Firefighters then arrived to remove the statue using a crane and flatbed truck shortly after midnight.
Tensions between the president’s supporters and opponents had resulted in a “slightly aggressive atmosphere” throughout Tuesday, a police spokesperson told DPA news agency.
The four-foot edifice of Erdogan was erected in the city’s German Unity Square (Platz der Deutschen Einheit) on Monday as part of the Wiesbaden Biennale art festival. It was intended to stay in place until the end of the festival on September 2.
Crafted in a pose that resembles the famous statue of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein that was pulled down by US troops during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, organizers had hoped it would provoke public debate about this year’s festival theme of ‘bad news’.
But the debate erupted right on the surface of the statue. It was vandalized with profanity and male genitalia on the night of its erection, with graffiti saying “f*** Erdogan” and “Turkish Hitler.”
Erdogan represents a polarizing figure in Germany, which is home to at least 3 million people with Turkish roots. His crackdown on political opponents, civil servants, and journalists in the wake of 2016’s coup against his regime has garnered much criticism from European nations, including Germany.
After reaching a diplomatic low point with EU members in 2017, when Ankara accused both the Netherlands and Germany of “Nazi practices,” diplomatic relations have been moving towards normalization.
Erdogan is set to visit Berlin next month, where the agenda sets out a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, military honors, and an official state banquet.
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