A statue of 18th-century slave trader Robert Milligan has been removed from outside a museum in the British capital after Labour councils pledged to begin reviewing such monuments in their areas amid anti-racism protests across the country triggered by the growing surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The statue in front of the Museum of London Docklands came into focus after demonstrators taking part in a global anti-racism protest movement on Sunday tore down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, southwest England, and dumped it into the river.
The pulling down of Milligan’s statue on Tuesday came as London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said more statues of imperialist figures could be removed from the United Kingdom’s streets as the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of white police in the US city of Minneapolis continued to spark protests and drive change around the world.
Tweeting a video of the moment the Milligan statue was taken down, Mr Khan said: “It’s a sad truth that much of our wealth was derived from the slave trade – but this does not have to be celebrated in our public spaces.”
It’s a sad truth that much of our wealth was derived from the slave trade – but this does not have to be celebrated in our public spaces.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 9, 2020
The removal came after the Canal and River Trust charity, which owns the land where the statue was located, said it would organise its “safe removal” following a petition launched by local Labour councillor Ehtasham Haque.
The borough’s mayor John Biggs said: “I know the strength of feeling about this following the removal of a similar statue in Bristol, and we’ve acted quickly to both ensure public safety and respond to the concerns of our residents, which I share.
“The East End has a proud history of fighting intolerance. We now need a wider conversation about confronting this part of our history and the symbols that represent it.”
Tonight, we have removed the statue of slave trader Robert Milligan that previously stood at West India Quay. We have also announced a review into monuments and other sites in our borough to understand how we should represent the more troubling periods in our history. pic.twitter.com/Thfz3UHU96
— Tower Hamlets Council (@TowerHamletsNow) June 9, 2020
The statue of the noted West Indian merchant, slaveholder and founder of London’s global trade hub, West India Docks, had stood outside the Museum of London Docklands.
The Local Government Association’s (LGA) Labour group has also announced that Labour councils across England and Wales are to review “the appropriateness” of monuments and statues in their towns and cities.
Who Was Robert Milligan
Milligan was a prolific British slave trader who owned 526 slaves plantations by the time he died in 1809, aged 63.
Born to a slave-owning family on a Jamaican plantation, Milligan owned slave ships and made an incredible amount of money off the backs of black slaves shortly before the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and 1833.
In 1809, the year of his death, Milligan owned 526 slaves who worked at his sugar plantation called Kellet’s and Mammee Gully.
Robert Milligan was also the driving force behind the construction of the West India Docks in London.