Should Manchester remove some of its existing statues?
Following widespread demands to remove statues of historical figures with links to racism and the slave trade, Manchester Council has announced that they will review each statue currently standing in the city, calling out to residents to hear who they’d like to see celebrated.
The response follows a number of incidents across the country during protests, which saw Bristol’s statue of Edward Colson torn down by activists, and a statue of Winston Churchill defaced in London. In Manchester, protestors have been petitioning for the removal of the Robert Peel statue that resides in Piccadilly Gardens, with campaigners stating that Peel’s father was “actively proslavery and circulated a proslavery petition in 1806, a mere year before the abolition of the slave trade”. An additional statue of Peel also stands in Bury.
The petition for the removal of Peel’s statue has garnered over 1,400 signatures in two days, prompting the Council to conduct a full review of the city’s statues and their history – with the Council being particularly interested in using the review to represent the city’s BAME history.
The support from Mancs for the Black Lives Matter movement has been huge, with thousands turning out across the weekend for demonstrations in Piccadilly Gardens and St. Peter’s Square, conducting peaceful protests fighting against both systemic and systematic racism. Protesters raised signs of solidarity, with anti-racism messages emblazoned across them – inspiring many to keep up the efforts in the fight for Black rights. Council leader Richard Leese thanked campaigners for conducting themselves in a calm and peaceful manner, saying: “The discrimination and victimisation of anyone because of their race is an abhorrence that has no place in our world, and any trace of bigotry must be removed from our society. For this reason, Manchester has always and will always support the right to peaceful protest as the foundation of a fair and just society.
“We must stand in solidarity beside those who face discrimination and victimisation, be vocal and create a platform for their voice to be heard.” before adding a message of encouragement to continue the efforts, with the pandemic in mind. “I understand the fire that has been lit in the hearts of Manchester residents since the death of George Floyd – and with good reason. It is extremely difficult to maintain social distancing and keep a large gathering of people safe in the city centre. The R number, the reproduction rate for Covid-19, is back above one, so use your voice, but do so safely.”
The Council is continuing to address issues of race within the region, recently announcing that they’d be reviewing the number of BAME representatives within their teams, particularly those who have a say in important city matters, as well as requiring GMP to provide a quarterly Race Equality Policing Report and, of course, reviewing the celebrated figures that have been memorialised.
Speaking of the statue review, Councillor Luthfur Rahman said: “We think it’s important therefore to undertake a city-wide review of all the statues in Manchester and work with our cultural institutions to understand their history and context.
“Through this process it’s important that we do not shy away from the darker moments in our country’s history and the difficult conversations attached to them. We hope this will provide an opportunity for education and debate around those who have been memorialised.
“We also want to take this opportunity to ask the public who is missing – who should be celebrated but is not – with particular thought around representing the proud BAME history of Manchester and help to reflect the shared story of our diverse and multicultural city.”