Thousands demand removal of ‘racist and unwelcoming’ statues across the UK

It has prompted one English council to remove a pub sign that was likened to a gollywog ‘with immediate effect’.

Black Lives Matter protests
Black Lives Matter protests

Thousands of people are demanding the removal of controversial monuments and statues around the UK, which campaigners describe as “racist and unwelcoming”.

A number of petitions are circling online which have taken inspiration from an anti-racism demonstration in Bristol, which saw protesters topple the statue of slave trader Edward Colston before dragging and heaving the bronze monument into the harbour.

It has prompted one English council to remove a pub sign that was likened to a gollywog “with immediate effect”.

With the growing surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has sparked global protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, petitions have emerged online demanding controversial monuments in the UK are taken down.

Cecil Rhodes statue
The statue mounted on Oriel college building of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes

One such petition, which has amassed more than 26,000 signatures, demands the removal of a caricature of a black man atop the 18th century Greenman pub sign in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

The Grade II-listed sign, which arches over St John’s Street, depicts the face of a black man, which one 20-year-old anthropology student from the town, who did not want to be named, said resembled a gollywog, a 19th century rag doll which is largely considered racist.

Black Lives Matter protests
The sign at the Greenman pub in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, will be removed following a petition (PA)

“I think people are ashamed of it,” she said.

“Having it in the middle of the street in a small town is so unwelcoming.

“It should have been taken down a long time ago and put in a museum.”

Matthew Holt, a 19-year-old international relations student from Ashbourne, also signed the petition, stating: “It seems such an obvious racist sign.

Black Lives Matter protests
The sign at the Greenman pub in Ashbourne, Derbyshire (PA Media)

“I think it’s important we address our history, we can’t change it but this shouldn’t be displayed in the public eye.

“It should be in a museum where we can learn about it with a description to contextualise it.”

Their demands have prompted Derbyshire Dales District Council’s decision to remove the monument from the sign.

A council spokesman said: “We’re removing the head from the sign with immediate effect.

“We agree that the sign itself is not only a public safety concern right now, but that this is an issue that requires urgent discussion and consultation.

“The sign was gifted to the district council a number of years ago and is currently protected by a Grade II structure listing.

“Legally, only Heritage England or the Secretary of State can remove this listing, which means we need to take on board the views of our own councillors and local people before taking forward any representations. This will happen soon.”

Black Lives Matter protests
The Greenman pub sign in Ashbourne, Derbyshire (PA Media)

However, a petition has also been launched which seeks to keep the monument in place, with supporters stating it is a part of history.

On the petition page, which has garnered more than 2,700 signatures, organiser Shaun Redfern described the sign as a tourist attraction which “should be kept because of the history for the town”.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh, a petition was launched to remove the statue of slave owner Henry Dundas in St Andrew Square and for streets bearing his name to be renamed.

Petition organiser and local resident Nancy Barrett, 22, said: “I feel as though Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade has been silently swept under the rug and a lot of people think Scotland is innocent, which isn’t the case.

“The height of the statue alone shows how highly Henry Dundas was thought of when it was erected.

“If it were to be removed it would denounce the glorification of him, and force people to learn about who he really was.

“The longer it stays up, the longer Scotland is denying its past by refusing to amend something that should have happened years ago.”

In Wales, Cardiff’s first black Lord Mayor Dan De’Ath is calling on local councillors to remove the statue of Sir Thomas Picton, stating it was “no longer acceptable” for it to remain in City Hall.

In a letter to the leader of Cardiff Council, he said: “As you may be aware, Picton was celebrated for his role in the Peninsular War and for being the highest-ranking officer killed at Waterloo.

“Picton also served as governor of Trinidad where he oversaw an authoritarian and highly brutal regime.”

He continued: “Picton was also accused of the execution of a dozen slaves and his considerable fortune was due in a large part to the slave trade.”

Another petition was launched to take down the statue of Robert Clive, known as the Clive of India, in The Square in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, which described the 18th century figure as “nothing more than an figure of oppression and white supremacy”.

Similarly, thousands of people have signed two new petitions calling for the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes to be taken down at Oriel College at the University of Oxford.

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