London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Tuesday said that statues of imperialist figures throughout the city could be taken down as he announced a commission to “review and improve diversity.”
“Our capital’s diversity is our greatest strength, yet our statues, road names and public spaces reflect a bygone era,” Khan said in a statement.
“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored,” he added.
The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will review the landmarks in the city, including statues and street names, and make a “series of recommendations” regarding which “legacies should be celebrated,” according to the mayor’s announcement.
The commission will focus on increasing representation among black and Asian minority ethnic communities, as well as women, the LGBTQ community and disability groups.
“The Black Lives Matter protests have rightly brought this to the public’s attention, but it’s important that we take the right steps to work together to bring change and ensure that we can all be proud of our public landscape,” Khan said.
Khan’s announcement comes after protesters pulled down a statue of British slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol on Sunday.
The demonstrations followed the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck even after he became unresponsive, which sparked protests across the U.S. and beyond.
Khan said he does not condone “any attack” on police in an interview with Sky News, but he offered support for protesters taking down the statue.
“The Home Secretary and our Prime Minister should try and walk in the shoes of a black person in Bristol,” Khan tweeted. “The lack of empathy shown by Priti Patel and Boris Johnson over the Edward Colston statue is breathtaking.”
The Home Secretary and our Prime Minister should try and walk in the shoes of a black person in Bristol.— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 8, 2020
The lack of empathy shown by Priti Patel and Boris Johnson over the Edward Colston statue is breathtaking. pic.twitter.com/SLwK4RG7T4
Similar demonstrations vandalizing statues have taken place across the U.S.
A small group of protesters reportedly toppled a statue commemorating Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham in Richmond, Va., late Saturday.
Some lawmakers have also ordered the removal of statues commemorating officials that they said do not reflect current values.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has ordered the removal of a large statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but a judge has temporarily blocked the governor’s order.
In Philadelphia, officials removed a statue honoring the late former Mayor Frank Rizzo last week in a decision the city’s mayor said was meant to acknowledge Rizzo’s mistreatment of African American and LGBT communities during his time in office.