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Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021

London asks public to decide fate of slave owner's statue in financial district

London asks public to decide fate of slave owner's statue in financial district

Statues and monuments linked to slavery and racism could be removed from the heart of London's financial district after local officials asked the public to help decide their fate.
The City of London Corporation said Tuesday that residents, workers and the general public will have three months to offer their opinion on "which landmarks they think are a problem and what action they would like to see taken."

The move is a response to Black Lives Matter protests that erupted around the world following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police officers in the United States.

"Like many areas of the country, the City of London has a number of statues and other landmarks with links to the slave trade and historic racism," Caroline Addy, co-chair of the City of London Corporation's Tackling Racism Taskforce, said in a statement. "It's important that we acknowledge and address this legacy with openness and honesty, and carefully consider what should be done."

The Corporation runs the traditional financial district in London, which is also known as the Square Mile. The area contains the Bank of England, Lloyd's of London insurance market and the offices of many of the world's largest banks and financial institutions.

In a statement, the City of London said it was asking the public to comment on statues, buildings and street names and other landmarks.

Activists have already called for a statue of William Beckford, a slave owner who served in parliament and twice as Lord Mayor of London, to be removed from the Guildhall, one of London's oldest buildings and home to the City of London Corporation. It dates back 800 years and hosts conferences and corporate events in its Gothic halls.

The UK government rejected a petition seeking the statue's removal earlier this year, saying it was a matter for the local authorities.

Spokespeople for the City of London did not immediately respond on Tuesday when asked for a list of other monuments and statues that have links to slavery or racism. Britain enslaved 3.1 million Africans between 1640 and 1807, transporting them to colonies around the world, according to Historic England, a public body.

In June, a statue of the slave trader Robert Milligan was removed from outside the Museum of London Docklands near Canary Wharf, which is also home to many financial firms.

Mulligan owned two sugar plantations and 526 slaves in Jamaica at the time of his death in 1809. The same month, UK protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and dumped it into a nearby river.

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