Tuesday 9 June 2020 9:32 pm

Tower Hamlets removes Docklands statue of slave trader

A statue of Robert Milligan, an 18th century slave trader, was being removed from its plinth outside a London museum today after officials decided it was no longer acceptable to the local community. 

The previously obscure statue, which stood in front of the Museum of London Docklands, came into focus after demonstrators taking part in a global anti-racism protest movement tore down the statue of a slave trader in Bristol.

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.

Read more: Hundreds attend memorial service for George Floyd as US anti-racism protests continue

“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 yesterday more than 1,000 demonstrators demanded the removal of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes.

Read more: Sadiq Khan accused of ‘not looking after coppers’ in London protests

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.