Sint-Niklaas to change the name of Leopold II-laan

The local council in the East Flemish city of Sint-Niklaas has voted to change the name of a street that is currently named after King Leopold II. The three parties that make up the coalition on Sint-Niklaas City Council (Flemish nationalists, greens and liberals) and the opposition Christian democrats voted to change the name of the Leopold II-laan. 

The recent anti-racism protests have reopened the debate on the atrocities committed in the Congo Free State when it was under the control of King Leopold II between 1885 and 1908. Some local authorities such as Leuven City Council have decided to remove busts of the second King of the Belgians from their town halls, while others are considering changing the names of streets that are called after the former monarch.

The Mayor of Sint-Niklaas Lieven Dehandschutter (nationalist) told VRT Radio 2 East Flanders that "There have always been objections based on principle and practical considerations, but now the discussion has come to the fore. We have noted that there is broad support for changing the name. The Street Name Commission will be given the task of changing the name and this will run parallel with a public consultation.  Based on the final proposals the council will select a new name.”

The city council will also examine whether residents and businesses on the Leopold II-laan should be given compensation when the name of the street is changed.