Southwark Council have said they will undertake an audit of the borough’s statues and street names to explore those with links to slavery and our colonial past.
The leader of the council Peter John in his weekly newsletter email to residents across the borough last night (Friday, June 12) said: “I promised you last week that I would share with you the details of our plans to respond to the killing of George Floyd and the injustice and racism experienced by our BAME communities. I have asked Cllr Johnson Situ, Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning, to lead our work in this area under the name ‘Southwark stands together’.”
He said that it would include “an anti-racist audit of the borough to identify statues and street names that do not reflect our borough’s diversity, especially anything with links to slavery or our country’s colonial past, and to identify positive opportunities for the celebration of more diverse figures.”
The council are also planning what Cllr John described as ‘a listening exercise’ involving communities across the borough, partner organisations, and council staff, where he says they will “hear their concerns, and identify solutions to address entrenched and persistent racism and injustice.”
He also called upon “all businesses and organisations in the borough to work with us to implement these solutions, taking positive action to ensure equality of opportunity.”
Cllr Situ’s report is expected at the end of the summer, but in the council leader promised to share details of how people can get involved, saying “we want to ensure it is driven and informed by our communities.”
This comes just a day after the announcement that the statue to Guy’s Hospital founder, Thomas Guy, will be removed over his profiteering from the slave trade.
A statue to Guy stands in the Guy’s campus of King’s College London, next to the hospital he founded with a fortune he made largely from shares in a slave-trading company.
Another statue to Sir Robert Clayton, which stands outside St Thomas’ Hospital, will also be removed.
Clayton was a member of the Royal African Company, which shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other insitition during the Atlantic slave trade.
Thomas Guy made a colossal fortune from shares in the South Sea Company, which was granted a monopoly on trafficking slaves to Spain’s colonies in South America in 1713.
However, the hospital said it would not be dropping the name of ‘Guy’s Hospital’, despite removing their founder’s statue.
The decision on these two statues and others after London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced on Tuesday a commission to review London landmarks over their links to slavery, pushing for those with clear links to be renamed or removed, has divided opinion across the nation.
The Met police have today imposed conditions upon several groups intending to protest in central London. Under the Public Order Act 1986 police have marked out restricted areas and have said any procession must be finished by 5pm.
Commander Bas Javid said yesterday: “I absolutely understand why people want to make their voices heard – there is a really strong depth of feeling out in the communities, but the Government direction is that we remain in a health pandemic and people are asked not to gather in large groups. By doing so, you are putting your own safety, and that of your family or friends at risk. We are asking you not to come to London, and let your voices be heard in other ways.
“We all saw the crowds that came together last weekend, and the demonstration on the whole was peaceful and reinforced the legitimacy of feelings within our communities.
“However on both days, there was a minority intent on disorder, which resulted in incidents of violence and criminal behaviour, and assaults against our officers. This cannot be tolerated.
“As part of the ongoing policing operation ahead of tomorrow’s demonstrations, we continually monitor information available to us. Based on current information, and in order to keep those people safe who plan to come and protest, we have made the decision to impose conditions on the planned demonstrations tomorrow.
“If you were planning to come to London, I again would urge you to reconsider, but if you are still intent, please familiarise yourself with what the conditions are. Please keep yourself safe by complying with government guidance on social distancing.”