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Black Lives Matter statue torn down a day after its Budapest unveiling

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By Gábor Ács
The statue before it was vandalised
The statue before it was vandalised   -   Copyright  Credit: RTL Klub

An installation by sculptor Péter Szalay, dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, was pulled down on Friday morning in Hungary just a day after it was put on display.

Standing at just a metre high, the 3D-printed work, which depicts New York's Statue of Liberty in rainbow colours, has already sparked controversy in the country among the government of Viktor Orbán.

Erected on Thursday in the capital Budapest, Lady Liberty is portrayed bending the knee, stretching her right fist in the air and holding a plaque that reads: "Black Lives Matter".

Szalay previously told Euronews that he was sure that the installation would be smashed as soon as it was put on public display - the statue was meant to be in position for two weeks.

“I really expected it, but the fate of the statue actually turned out to be even more interesting than I thought," he said after his artwork had been pulled down.

Ferenc tér most- és a rendőrök, akik még nem értik, hogy ezzel ők is egy interaktív játék művészeti projekt részévé válnak.

Posted by Sándor Erzsi on Thursday, April 1, 2021

“The destruction shows how much repressed temper there is in society. It also shows how sharply people are able to confront each other out of sheer difference of opinion.

“The rainbow stripes are undoubtedly very irritating to the vandals. They are already offended by the rainbow alone, even though it is also a biblical symbol. After the flood, it was a celestial sign that the disaster was over."

The statue caused an uproar after it won a recent tender for public art in the ninth district of the Hungarian capital.

"Black Lives Matter is basically a racist movement. The racist is not the person who opposes a BLM statue, but the person who erects one," said Gergely Gulyás, Orbán’s chief of staff.

But the mayor of the district, Krisztina Baranyi, defended the move, saying: "The BLM goals of opposing racism and police brutality are just as relevant in Hungary as anywhere else."

Szalay said he was quite nervous when the statue was put up because the Our Homeland Movement, a Hungarian far-right political party, had promised to prevent it from being erected.

"I was afraid that some sort of the atrocities might be felt already during the set-up. Fortunately, that was not the case," the sculptor said.

There was "more action" than he had imagined when the artwork was installed, with protesters splashing paint over the figure and putting up planks around it before it was eventually removed.

"It would have been lucky if the planks had remained because they would have protected the statue," he added.

"This makes the afterlife of the statue even more interesting."