A worker cleans the Churchill statue in Parliament Square that had been spray painted with the words "was a racist" on June 8, 2020, in London. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Friday it's "absurd and shameful" that a statue of Winston Churchill is the target of protesters, adding that Churchill "was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial."

Why it matters: Demonstrations against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd have gone global. As in the U.S., protesters in Britain have sought to challenge racism and imperialism in their country's past and have vandalized or even removed the statues of historic leaders now thought to be racist.

Churchill is known for defending Europe from the spread of Nazism and fascism as Britain's prime minister during WWII but his legacy is controversial.

What's happening: Protesters in England wrote "was racist" under Churchill's name on the memorial last weekend, and the statue was covered by a box on Friday.

What he's saying: Johnson called the statue "a permanent reminder of [Churchill's] achievement in saving this country" and criticized the protesters as trying "to edit or censor our past," in a series of tweets Friday.

  • "It is absurd and shameful that this national monument should today be at risk of attack by violent protestors. Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial."
  • "We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations."
  • "They had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong. But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come."
  • "As for the planned demonstrations, we all understand the legitimate feelings of outrage at what happened in Minnesota and the legitimate desire to protest against discrimination."
  • "Whatever progress this country has made in fighting racism — and it has been huge — we all recognise that there is much more work to do."

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