Sadiq Khan orders review of all London statues for slavery links

More statues of imperialist figures could be removed from Britain’s streets, following the unauthorized felling of a monument to slave trader Edward Colston in the city of Bristol, the mayor of London said Tuesday.

The London mayor said the city’s landmarks – including street names, the names of public buildings and plaques will be reviewed by a commission to ensure they reflect the capital’s diversity after Black Lives Matter protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol,  following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the US.

Speaking to broadcasters on Tuesday, Khan said he did not condone breaking the law and wanted there to be a proper process for the removal of any statues that do not reflect London’s values.

He would not name which ones should come down, saying it would be a matter for the new commission, but said there were clearly statues commemorating slavers in the capital.

“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored. This cannot continue …

“The Black Lives Matter protests have rightly brought this to the public’s attention, but it’s important that we take the right steps to work together to bring change and ensure that we can all be proud of our public landscape.”

However, he said he did not think statues such as that of Sir Winston Churchill’s in Parliament Square should be included in the review it was tagged with “racist” on Sunday. He said Londoners needed to be educated about famous figures “warts and all” and that “nobody was perfect”, including the likes of Churchill, Gandhi and Malcolm X.

Monuments that could be under threat in London would include statues of Robert Milligan in Docklands, William Beckford at London’s Guildhall, John Cass at London’s Metropolitan University and one Thomas Guy, which stands in the courtyard at Guy’s Hospital.

The commission – which will be co-chaired by Debbie Weekes-Bernard, the deputy mayor for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, and the deputy mayor for culture and creative industries, Justine Simons – will include historians as well as arts, council and community leaders.

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