LONDON, Sept 1 — The City of London Corporation, which runs the British capital’s historic financial district, launched a public consultation today on whether to remove or re-label monuments with links to slavery.
The corporation that runs the so-called Square Mile, which includes the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral, said it wanted people’s views on “which landmarks they think are a problem and what action they would like to see taken”.
There have been nationwide calls to remove monuments linked to Britain’s colonial past following the toppling of a statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston during an anti-racism protest in the south-western city in June.
It was one of many demonstrations around the world against discrimination and social injustice, sparked by the death in US police custody of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.
The City of London Corporation’s three-month consultation is being promoted by its new Tackling Racism Taskforce, set up in June at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests.
It is seeking views from across Britain on landmarks, plaques, statues and street names, which will then be considered by a committee.
“We know that historical symbols continue to have an impact today and we want to understand how people feel about this aspect of our cultural history and whether such landmarks should be re-sited, reinterpreted or retained as they stand,” said taskforce co-chairman Andrien Meyers.
A campaign has already begun to remove the statue of William Beckford, an 18th-century politician, which stands in the Guildhall civic building.
He served twice as former Lord Mayor of London and as a local MP, and amassed a fortune through his ownership of plantations and thousands of slaves in Jamaica.
A petition launched earlier this year to remove Beckford’s statue claimed such monuments “glorify figures who profited from slavery, something that should not be associated with London, or its ‘traditional liberties’.”
The petition was submitted to parliament but rejected because the issue of monuments is one for local authorities and private landlords.
However, a school in north London named after Beckford is now changing its name. — AFP