A statue of Robert Milligan, an 18th century slave trader, was removed from its plinth outside a London museum on Tuesday after global anti-racism protests triggered a debate about how Britain commemorates its imperial past.
Statues glorifying slave traders and colonialists have come into sharp focus in recent days, as part of a broader movement inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests that started in the United States following the death of George Floyd.
“While 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,” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a tweet with a photo of the statue.
Earlier, Khan ordered a review of statues and street names across London, in response to mass protests in the city and elsewhere.
On Sunday, protesters in the English port city of Bristol tore down the statue of a slave trader and threw it in the harbour, while in Oxford on Monday more than 1,000 demonstrators demanded the removal of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes.
The previously obscure statue of Milligan stood in front of the Museum of London Docklands, on the edge of the glitzy business district of Canary Wharf, which is surrounded by the multi-ethnic, working-class borough of Tower Hamlets.
A statue of Robert Milligan is pictured being removed by workers outside the Museum of London Docklands near Canary Wharf, following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, London, Britain, June 9, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley
Milligan, who owned sugar plantations in Jamaica, was involved in the construction of London’s West India Docks.
Onlookers cheered and applauded as workers in high-visibility jackets separated the statue from its plinth, then lifted it off with a crane truck.
The mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, told Reuters from the scene he felt strongly it was no longer appropriate to leave the statue in place. He said it would be put into storage and discussions would take place about what to do with it.
A BYGONE ERA
“People assumed he was just a businessman who helped build the docks, but when you dig into it you learn that in fact he was a slave trader,” Biggs said. “I find it refreshing, I find it inspiring that people want to learn and reflect.”
The decision to remove the statue was taken by the owners of the land, a body called the Canal and River Trust. “We recognise the wishes of the local community concerning the statue of Robert Milligan at London Docklands,” it said in a statement.
The orderly removal of the statue was in contrast to chaotic scenes in Bristol on Sunday. Police there decided not to stop protesters from toppling a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston to avoid inflaming the situation.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the felling of Colston’s statue was a criminal act, while interior minister Priti Patel called it “utterly disgraceful”.
Mayor Khan said a commission would review statues, plaques and street names which reflect the rapid expansion of London’s wealth and power at the height of Britain’s empire in the reign of Queen Victoria.
“Our capital’s diversity is our greatest strength, yet our statues, road names and public spaces reflect a bygone era,” he said.
British merchants played a major role in the transatlantic slave trade, the biggest deportation in known history.
As many as 17 million African men, women and children were torn from their homes and shipped to the Americas between the 15th and 19th centuries. Ships returned to Europe with sugar, cotton and tobacco cultivated by slaves on brutal plantations.
12 thoughts on “London Removes Slave Trader Statue”
Sadiq Khan seems to conveniently forget that slavery is still going on in the Middle Eastern Arabic countries. Khan: don’t pontificate and preach to others about the wrongs that they committed centuries ago and have corrected when your Islamic brothers are still doing slavery right now. You are a flaming hypocrite!
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Sounds like very good advice for Mayor Khan. You make not like history but never the less it is what happened. By the you can’t make it disappear either. It is the reality of the past. The real smart move it to keep it place as a remembrance not to go back to that injustice.
Those slaves were sold by black tribes to white slave traders… It was a cruel thing but I guess you can’t blame it completely on whites…right? Blacks have been picked on for centuries and it was so unfair. I’ve witnessed it myself being near 80 years old. I have never ever been cruel or or did anything to a black person and I never witnessed my parents do anything either. I don’t believe the blacks will ever forgive us for what’s been done to them. But they should. Why are they taking their hatred of whites out on us when we had nothing to do with slavery. My family history never showed the ownership of a slave. I know now days in black neighborhoods a white person is taking their lives in their hands buy going into those places. But put the shoe on the other foot and a black person could go through a white neighborhood and not feel threatened. Then again have you every heard the the Barbary coast slave trading? Millions of whites were captured and sold into slavery to blacks. Look it up! You see us rioting? No. That was part of the world back then 300 years ago. It was world wide. I believe the race wars will never end until we meld together and all become one race. Not before. The blacks are not ingratiating themselves to any other race by rioting, looting, killing each other (and whites). Instead of wanting to be a drug dealer, Pimp, star athlete the black youth of today should concentrate on getting and education. It’s very possible because black brains are no different than white brains. They are smart. Educate yourselves and become CPAs, engineers, teachers and the like. We will always be at odds. Quit using white people as an excuse to act out…
WOW… The Democrats Highly Praised and Supported Antifa / CHAZ anarchist mob that took over six blocks of downtown Seattle two weeks ago has: Armed, Built a Border Wall, Established Segregated Areas, Reported multiple rapes of white women and robbery (Reported to Police but Banned from responding by the group), Sexually assaulted a white Street Preacher, placed him a choke hold, put a knee on his neck (like Floyd) and threaten to deported him, actually Deported a Mexican Man, is Extorting $money from the White members by demanding all give the Black members $10 each as Initial Reparation and roaming bands of armed thugs, are demanding extortion money from businesses in the area to remain in operation. They’re calling it “protection money.” What a Democratic Anti Fascist Utopian Community…
I left a comment. Where is it? Why are you censoring me?
The way is going It won’t be long before we remove all except Lincoln’s statue.
Im a super proud Tsalagi indian MY bloods been here for 13000 years! I despise what’s being allowed to go down on the planet! This whole black supremacy movement is shit from the bottom up! As is the NOTHING being done about these domestic terrorists running wild in the streets like, well, chimps in the forest, (they are responsible for solidifying the antiquated stereotypes themselves!), burning, pillaging, threatening police lives (because apparently cop lives are worthless to the neo-schwarze regime) in general behaving as usual, such cliche ghetto thugs it would be laughable if it weren’t happening. and since there appears to be a huge lack of willing, able and allowed police officers, buhbye rule of law! BUT! HELLLLLOOO 2nd amendment you beautiful thing you! Not to mention that everywhere is a stand your ground zone by default now. (my own interpretation that I will stand by) we the ACTUAL people that behave like people in civilized cultures, not 3rd world pirates or aids spreading warlords running amok, must bear arms against these domestic terrorists actions and use our ccw’s! since nobody else is going to do anything to help us.
MARINA – THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORDS OF REASON and UNDERSTANDING OF THE SITUATION WE ARE NOW IN !!
Everyone in the World are becoming increasingly difficult to know and work with. Let’s ALL step back and rethink the DERANGED POLLACK problem out. !! IT’S not Pink lifes matter or Green lives matter or Purple lives matter of Yellow lives matter or Orange lives matter or Brown lives matter or Red lives matter or White lives matter or Black lives matter
IT should be. ALL LIFE’S MATTER . WE ALL PEOPLE OF ALL RACES, and NATIONALITYS., Come on PEOPLE let’s live in PEACE ✌✌ and LIBERTY ! HOW ABOUT IT . I’m not being an As whole about it I’m just getting tried of ALL this
FIGHTING , KILLINGS and DESTROYING of Property Nationwide,and Destroying FAMILY’S, FRIENDS and LOVED ONES .
Yes I agree I’m black I’m a black man and I feel the way you feel we must love an hour Republican leader in the White House that’s not healthy
Rig…you are absolute right!
At least they removed it Properly. (The STATUE Belongs In A Museum.) INSTEAD, Of The Way The Animals IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA? ALLOWED STATUES TO BE TORN DOWN BY LOOTER’S and RiOTER’S? HISTORY , Tends to repeat itself? This is WHY? It is Sooooooo Important To Be Reminded of the BAD DAYS! … I would have been Sooooooo Much Happier To See A STATUE “ADDED” That Explained The View from the Opposite Perspective. … ALWAYS SAY … ADD. …(Never Subtract.) … DESTRUCTION: Is The First CLUE YOU ARE DOING THE “WRONG THING”