In a reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests, London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he will set up a commission to review the British capital’s landmarks and street names and remove any that don’t comply with “diversity”.
The potential purge of historical figures in Britain that Khan’s commission could bring about is being cheered by those on the left, and comes at a time when statues and monuments are coming under attack from Black Lives Matter protesters, including a statue of Winston Churchill in London, King Leopold II in Belgium, and Polish-American hero Tadeusz Kościuszko in Washington D.C., who actually campaigned to free slaves during the American colonial era.
“It’s a sad truth that much of our wealth was derived from the slave trade but this does not have to be celebrated in our public spaces,” Khan wrote on his Twitter page, attaching a video of a slave trader Robert Milligan statue being removed.
UPDATE: The statue of slave trader Robert Milligan has now been removed from West India Quay.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 9, 2020
“When you look at the public realm – street names, street squares, murals – not only are there some of the slavers that I think should be taken down, and the commission will advise us on that, but we don’t have enough representation of people of color, black people, women, those from the LGBT community,” Khan said to Sky News.
“We must ensure that we celebrate the achievements and diversity of all in our city and that we commemorate those who have made London what it is – that includes questioning which legacies are being celebrated,” he explained his plan.
However, his intention has been met with backlash as people pointed out that diversity should not be about removing British history and culture.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has come out harshly against the commission. In an editorial for the Telegraph, he wrote, “Our craven leaders are failing to stand up to a Marxist mob which wants to tear down our history.”
In an interview with Good Morning Britain, Farage said that protesters who removed a statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader who invested much of the money he made into philanthropy in the city of Bristol, performed the action without the will or permission of the people of the city.
Polling shows that only 13 percent of the British public approves of the way Colston’s statue was removed, which included protesters tossing it in Bristol’s harbor.
There has been pushback on social media as well, with some users asking where the removal statues would end.
“When was the consultation on this? This destruction of statues is some sort of post-truth nightmare. What next? Renaming roads you do not like?” asked one web user responding to Khan’s tweet.
When was the consultation on this? This destruction of statues is some sort of post-truth nightmare. What next? Renaming roads you do not like?
— Stephanie Hayden (@flyinglawyer73) June 9, 2020
“The statue was more than 200 years old. Destruction of cultural heritage is a crime against humanity,” stated another one.
Some users expressed worries that removing statues was introducing a slippery slope that could embolden progressives to remove other historical artifacts and monuments from British society. One quoted Orwell directly on the issue.
WE WERE WARNED
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day. History has stopped".
1984 – G. Orwell
— ?? ? ? ? ? _ ? ? ? ? ?? (@code_mars_) June 10, 2020
Others asked Khan to focus on issues that really matter, such as London’s increasing violent crime problem.
Knife crime is on the increase and you worry about statues.
— Alice (@JustaskingAlice) June 9, 2020
During the weekend, Black Lives Matter protesters vandalized the statue of Winston Churchill, writing “was a racist” on the foot of the monument.
If the commission goes through with the removal of statues, plaques, and other monuments, the fight over Britain’s history is likely to only intensify.
Title image: A worker rests after the statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was taken down, at West India Quay, east London, Tuesday, June 9, 2020, after a protest saw anti-racism campaigners tear down a statue of a slave trader in Bristol. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)