The Speaker
Thursday, 18 April 2024 – 22:41

Multiple statues removed following Black Lives Matter Demonstrations

80 hours ago Black Lives Matter protestors in Bristol tore down the statue of Edward Colston – a former slave trader – and threw him into the harbour. In the days since, statues across Britain have been taken down and a review into other such statues has been ordered in London by Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Edward Colston had long been infamous in the city for his historic roots to the slave trade, with some petitioning for the removal of the statue for many years. In the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests that have been sweeping the country following the murder of African American George Floyd, protesters tied Colston to a truck and pulled down the 200-year-old statue.

Just days later, a statue of Robert Milligan was taken down in London’s docklands, along with a review being launched into other similar statues across the capital. Liverpool University has since agreed to rename one of their halls, which bore the name of William Gladstone – the former British prime minister whose father was a major slave trader.

Similarly, in Belgium, former King, Leopold II had his statue removed in Brussels, for his horrific treatment of black people within the Congo Free State, where his actions were estimated to have caused between 10 and 15 million deaths.

Following the review in London, Liverpool and Manchester are planning on taking similar action, in a move that is expected to see some statues removed that have a past steeped in the slave trade or in other similar activities.

The moves have received some criticism, with the Liberal Democrat leader in Liverpool calling the move to rename Gladstone Halls “tokenistic twaddle”.

Moves have though been welcomed by many Black Lives Matter protesters, with the current movement sparking a conversation about the right ways to remember history.

Statues memorialising controversial figures is not a new debate, with many civil rights groups previously fighting for the removal of statues, such as that of Cecil Rhodes – former prime minister of the Cape Colony in Africa – currently at Oriel College, Oxford.

The quick reaction of many politicians to the ongoing protests is a sign that the demonstrations and protests may be achieving significant success, despite the backlash over violence erupting at protests in London late last week.

As the reviews continue into the placement of certain statues, the wider conversation about how to remember history and sensitively commemorate the past will continue on. It is expected that protests will continue, with protesters continuing to fight for reforms that look to correct the centuries-long inequalities that still persist in the United Kingdom that the prevalence of certain statues has come to represent.

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