Tories launch petition to 'protect' Sunderland statues so 'mobs do not destroy them'

Campaigners have launched a petition calling for statues and other monuments in Sunderland to be ‘protected’.

Protests inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement have seen statues of former slave traders pulled down in British cities, with more expected to be targeted.

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City leaders have insisted they ‘will not support unlawful damage’ to public installations, but have not ruled out a future review, prompting demands for a guarantee they will stay put.

Workers take down a statue of slave owner Robert Milligan at West India Quay, east London as Labour councils across England and Wales will begin reviewing monuments and statues in their towns and cities, after a protest saw anti-racism campaigners tear down a statue of a slave trader in Bristol. Picture by Yui Mok/PA Wire

According to a petition launched by the Sunderland City Council’s Conservative group on Wednesday, June 10: “Sunderland has a long, proud history and our historic monuments reflect this.

“These include monuments remembering our proud military history, as well as people who have shaped our city.

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“We call on Sunderland Council to protect our historic monuments, to reject any calls to remove them and to ensure that mobs do not destroy them.”

The petition passed its target of 1,000 signatures within a day of being set up.

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Sunderland Conservative councillor William Blackett

Labour Party chiefs have backed calls for a review of public monuments maintained by councils, which in the North East have now been promised by Newcastle City Council and Durham County Council.

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Sunderland City Council has not committed to a full review, but has also not yet ruled out any future action.

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The city council’s cabinet member for Communities and Culture, John Kelly, said: “As a listening council, we take on board the views of the public and should we be requested to look again at our monuments, statues and public commemorations, we will do that and consult further.

“Subject to consultation with the public of Sunderland, we would then look to reach a consensus.

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“We do not support illegal action and criminal damage to any monument or statue, whoever it might be.”

But Sunderland Conservative councillor William Blackett called instead for all Wearside’s monuments to be protected after being contacted over concerns for the future of Mowbray Park’s statue of Henry Havelock, a British general who served in India.

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He said: “It’s a part of our shared history, we cannot judge the people of the past by our current values.

“I can’t speak on behalf of the whole Conservative group, but I’m a history student, I know the history of the city and I’m not aware of any monuments that would warrant being removed.”

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