City of London Reverses Plan to Remove Slave-Linked Statues
(Bloomberg) -- The City of London reversed a plan to remove two statues of men linked to the transatlantic slave trade from its Guildhall headquarters, opting instead to place notices nearby explaining their context.
The decision was announced on Thursday, after representatives of the body’s municipal authority voted in favor of keeping the statues of William Beckford and John Cass where they stand.
It’s a “sensible, proportionate response to a sensitive issue,” said Doug Barrow, who chaired a working group that looked into the issue, in a statement. “It enables us to acknowledge and address the legacy of our past with openness and honesty.”
The City of London began looking more closely at its murky past during the Black Lives Matter protests that spread across the U.K. last year. It created an anti-racism task force that recommended removing the two statues, but later decided to set up the working group led by Barrow.
In justifying the change of plan, the City of London says that three out of four people wanted the statues placed in context or taken away, citing a report from Barrow’s working group. Getting rid of them was hampered by the need for listed building consent, it says, as well as the cost of repairing the stonework behind them -- about £100,000 ($136,180) for Beckford’s and £7,500 ($10,213) for Cass’s.
Thursday’s statement also refers to the government’s “retain and explain” policy, which aims to protect controversial monuments and artefacts from removal by providing more information about them.
Beckford twice held the position of the Lord Mayor of the City of London and owned slaves, while Cass, a former member of parliament, was involved in the Royal African Company which traded slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries. Earlier this year, City, University of London changed the name of its business school to Bayes Business School, to remove a reference to Cass.
utting people who profited from slavery “literally on a pedestal is something that has no place in a modern, diverse City.”
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