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Sadiq Khan has said he “hopes” a review of London’s landmarks will lead to some statues of slave traders being taken down.
The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will look at the capital’s landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – and consider which legacies should be celebrated before making recommendations.
The mayor of London launched the review on Tuesday after protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol over the weekend.
Asked by BBC Radio 4′s Today programme if it would lead to some statues in London being removed, Khan said: “I hope so.”
“I’ve not got ownership of the statues or indeed some of the land that these statues are on,” he said.
“But it is a wider conversation I want to have about the diversity of the public realm in our city.
“When you look at the public realm – street names, street squares, murals – not only are there some of slavers that I think should be taken down, and the commission will advise us on that, but actually we don’t have enough representation of people of colour, Black people, women, those from the LGBT community.”
But Khan said he did not consider statues of the likes of Sir Winston Churchill to be included in the review, after the former prime minister’s statue in Parliament Square had “was a racist” scribbled onto it by protesters.
The commission – which will be co-chaired by Debbie Weekes-Bernard, the deputy mayor for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, and deputy mayor for culture and creative industries Justine Simons – will include historians as well as arts, council and community leaders.
There have also been renewed demands that the statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes be removed from Oriel College at Oxford University.
The Rhodes Must Fall Oxford campaign group, alongside other student groups, argue that the university has “failed to address its institutional racism” and the impact on students and the city.
It comes ahead of planned anti-racism demonstrations in London as George Floyd is laid to rest in the US, after a killing which Boris Johnson said had awakened an “incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice” worldwide.
Floyd, who died after a police officer in Minneapolis restrained him by holding a knee on his neck, will be buried in his home town of Houston in Texas on Tuesday.
A symbolic and socially distanced commemoration is planned at the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square in London at 5pm, organised by Stand Up To Racism.
Following protests across the UK on the weekend, the prime minister – who had previously condemned the “thuggery” by a minority that marred some demonstrations – acknowledged many of the activists’ concerns were “founded on a cold reality”.
He said leaders “simply can’t ignore” concerns that Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups face discrimination in education, employment and in law.
But the PM said those who harmed police or property would face “the full force of the law”.