Sadiq Khan says slave traders must be 'stripped of their former glory'

8 June 2020, 20:30

By Maddie Goodfellow

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said that slave traders must be "stripped of their former glory" following the toppling of the statue of George Colston in Bristol on Sunday.

Mr Khan said that UK towns and cities need to build "statues and squares and street names not named after slavers, but people that reflect the diverse nature of our cities".

Speaking to LBC's Shelagh Fogarty, he added that it would serve the UK well to have cities filled with the memory of "icons we can be proud of rather than being ashamed of."

It follows the Grade-II listed bronze statue of slave trader George Colston, which used to stand on Colston Avenue, being pulled down on Sunday by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Crowds cheered as the controversial monument was pulled down by a group who had scaled it before attaching ropes to it and bringing the statue crashing to the ground.

It was then rolled to the nearby harbour and pushed into the water to further cheers and revelry.

On Monday, a hand-written sign was attached to the empty plinth by a member of the public, saying: "This plaque is dedicated to the slaves that were taken from their homes."

The London Mayor continued that the elation in ethnic minority communities for the topic being moved into the mainstream is visible today.

He said many people have told him today that they've "been wanting to have these conversations for decades."

The Mayor of London also pointed out the relief of many Bristolians at the loss of the statue of Edward Colston, noting that "they've been complaining about the statues of Colston for decades now" and the removal of the monument has hopefully become the start of a wider trend.

He also noted that in London "there are statues of slavers as well" and acknowledged that "there is racism in our city, in our country."

He continued: "I can't really understand what it is like to be a black person on the receiving end of racism on a daily basis" although he admitted that he "suffered racism, islamophobia, a whole host of things" himself.

The statue was thrown into the harbour on Sunday
The statue was thrown into the harbour on Sunday. Picture: PA
A hand-written sign has been placed where the statue stood
A hand-written sign has been placed where the statue stood. Picture: PA

It follows Bristol's mayor Marvin Rees saying that the statue was an "affront" and that he felt "no sense of loss" at its destruction.

Marvin Rees said that "as an elected politician I cannot condone criminal damage".

But he added: "I can't pretend, as the son of a Jamaican migrant myself, that the presence of that statue to a slave trader in the middle of the city was anything other than a personal affront to me and people like me."

Mr Rees continued: "We will get the statue back and it will highly likely end up in one of our museums.

"What's happened to this statue is part of this city's history and it's part of that statue's story.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described the incident as a "criminal act".

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC that it was "completely wrong" for the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol to be torn down "in that way" adding it should have been "taken down a long, long time ago."

Avon and Somerset Police said a decision was taken not to intervene.