Statue of slave owner Robert Milligan brought down in east London

9 June 2020, 20:53

The statue of a slave owner has been brought down in east London
The statue of a slave owner has been brought down in east London. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

A statue honouring the 18th century slave owner Robert Milligan in London Docklands has been brought down following protests over its links to slavery.

The large monument in West India Quay, a former global trading hub, had come under mounting attack after a statue for the 17th century slave owner Edward Colston was toppled and dumped in Bristol harbour by Black Lives Matter protesters at the weekend.

Tonight Tower Halmlets Council workmen ripped it from its plinth to the cheers of crowds watching on. Milligan, a Scottish merchant, owned two sugar plants in Jamaica where around 500 slaves worked.

A petition to remove the statue, set up by Tower Hamlets councilor Ehtasham Haque, gathered more than 4,500 signatures in 24 hours and said the statue was “painful to walk past”.

Read more: Colston, Clive, Rhodes and Picton - the statues under fire for their troubled pasts

Read more: Banksy suggests what to do with the toppled Edward Colston statue

BLM activists also daubed it with graffiti. The Canal & River Trust, its owner, announced it was to be taken down earlier on Tuesday.

Tweeting about its removal, Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, said: “Whilst it’s a sad truth that much of our city and nation’s wealth was derived from the slave trade - this does not have to be celebrated in our public spaces.”

Mulligan, a Scottish merchant, owned two sugar plants in Jamaica where around 500 slaves worked.
Mulligan, a Scottish merchant, owned two sugar plants in Jamaica where around 500 slaves worked. . Picture: PA
Black Lives Matter protesters were present for the statue being removed
Black Lives Matter protesters were present for the statue being removed. Picture: PA

The mayor revealed on Tuesday that he was establishing a diversity commission to review the city’s landmarks, as Labour council leaders across England and Wales vowed to assess whether their regions’ statues had links to colonialism or slavery.

The dockside statue became the latest flashpoint as a reckoning with racism following George Floyd’s death in US police custody continues.

Since the Colston statue was torn down by crowds of anti-racist activists in Bristol on Sunday - among the 137,500 protesters who descended on Britain’s streets over Mr Floyd’s death last weekend - debates have raged about other monuments.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Oriel College, at Oxford University, this evening for a peaceful demonstration calling for a statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes to be removed from its facade.

A petition to remove the statue, set up by Tower Hamlets councilor Ehtasham Haque, gathered more than 4,500 signatures in 24 hours
A petition to remove the statue, set up by Tower Hamlets councilor Ehtasham Haque, gathered more than 4,500 signatures in 24 hours. Picture: PA

The leader of Oxford City Council invited the institution to apply for permission to remove the grade II listed effigy after 26 councillors backed open letters calling for the college to confront its “institutional racism”.

Meanwhile, locals took down an ornament likened to a golliwog that formed the sign for The Green Man & Black’s Head Royal Hotel in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

Derbyshire Dales District Council said the 18th century iron and wood feature would be “removed with immediate effect” - but a large crowd of locals intervened and removed it themselves, vowing to protect it and put it back up.

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