London statues with slavery links ‘should be taken down’

London statues with slavery links 'should be taken down'

Thomas Guy

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Thomas Guy made his fortune through ownership of a large amount of shares in the South Sea Company

Statues and street names in London with links to slavery “should be taken down”, the city’s mayor has said.

Sadiq Khan said he had set up a commission to review the capital’s landmarks to ensure they reflect its diversity.

It comes after anti-racism protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol on Sunday.

Mr Khan said London had “an uncomfortable truth” with historic links to slavery.

The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will review the city’s landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – and consider which legacies should be celebrated before making recommendations.

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Robert Milligan was a noted slaveholder and founder of London’s global trade hub, West India Docks

Mr Khan said London was “one of the most diverse cities in the world”, but said recent Black Lives Matter protests had highlighted that the city’s statues, plaques and street names largely reflect Victorian Britain.

“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade,” he said.

“While this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored.”

During a Black Lives Matter protest in central London on Sunday, a statue of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was sprayed with graffiti.

Petitions have also been launched to remove statues of controversial people around London, such as one of Robert Milligan in West India Quays.

Mr Milligan was a noted slaveholder and founder of London’s global trade hub, West India Docks.

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Sir John Cass (1660-1718) did business with slave agents in Africa and the Caribbean

Mr Khan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he did not have ownership of the statues and the land they are on.

He also said it would be “inappropriate” to single out which statues and street names he thinks should go.

Instead a number of new memorials in the capital have been pledged by Mr Khan, including ones for Stephen Lawrence, the Windrush generation, a National Slavery Museum or memorial and a National Sikh War Memorial.

“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,” he said.

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