Sunderland statues have no links to slavery following review launched after Black Lives Matter protests

City leaders have not found any statues linked to the slave trade.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 3:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 3:43 pm
The vandalised Sir Henry Havelock statue in Mowbray Park, Sunderland.

Sunderland City Council promised a ‘conversation’ on the future of Wearside’s public monuments in the wake of protests linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.

But, despite controversy over Mowbray Park’s statue of British general Henry Havelock, bosses have decided not to take the issue any further.

Cllr John Kelly, cabinet member for Vibrant City, said: “We’ve looked at the history of all our statues and found nothing to link any of them with the slave trade.

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Cllr William Blackett

“Nor have we received any requests from residents on this matter, therefore there is nothing to consider at this time.”

The city council’s decision to examine it’s public monuments followed a call for all local authorities to do the same after protestors toppled a statue of 17th Century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and threw it into the city’s harbour last month (June).

Mowbray Park’s statue of Henry Havelock was added to the ‘Topple the Racists’ website, which said the soldier had ‘brutally suppressed the Indian rebellion of 1857’.

A petition started by nursing student Rosie Smith, from Seaham, gained more than 200 signatures after it called for a review of Wearside’s statues.

Cllr John Kelly, cabinet member for Vibrant City.

She said: “We were still collecting signatures until recently so never submitted [the petition].

“However a link to it was emailed with an explanation to the council members.

“We appreciate the council taking steps to review the statue.”

However, while some called for a reassessment of Sunderland’s monuments and the figures they commemorate in light of the Black Lives Matter protests, others demanded their protection.

A counter petition organised by Wearside’s branch of the Conservative Party demanded the council ‘reject any calls to remove’ statues from public places.

Cllr William Blackett said: “Our petition showed that the vast majority of Sunderland’s residents wanted to protect our heritage and were not happy to see our council pander to a small minority opposed to the statue and the vandals who attacked the Havelock statue.

“It is good to see that the calls of a small minority have led to no change and our historic statues will remain in place for the benefit of all residents of Sunderland.”

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