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Statue of Robert Milligan in Canary Wharf
Statue of Robert Milligan in Canary Wharf before its removal. Photograph: Chrispictures / Shutterstock

East London statue of slave trader Robert Milligan taken down

The tribute to the slave owner was removed from West India Quay last night following a petition

Laura Richards

A monument in London’s Docklands to eighteenth-century slaver Robert Milligan was removed last night (Tuesday June 9). The Canal and River Trust, which owns the land on which it stood, worked with local authorities and the Museum of London Docklands – in front of which the statue was placed – to have it taken down. The removal was met with cheers and applause as a JCB lifted the statue of Milligan from its plinth.  

It follows the toppling of a statue of slaver Edward Colston in Bristol at the weekend during a Black Lives Matter protest. The sight sparked a petition for the West India Quay statue’s removal. ‘Today it is our duty to remove this symbol which only resonates pain, suffering and inhuman treatments of fellow human beings for profit,’ called the petition.

The Canal and River Trust confirmed its decision to take down the statue of Robert Milligan on Twitter yesterday, after Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs released a statement calling for its removal. ‘The East End has a proud history of fighting injustice but we must also face up to our past and learn from it to continue our fight against racism and intolerance today,’ said Biggs.  

Yesterday morning, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced he was launching a review of the city’s statues, memorials, murals and even street names in solidarity with the anti-racism movement. The commission will look to improve diversity across London’s landmarks, although Khan admitted he did not have the authority to remove statues, a decision which falls with the land owners. 

The Museum of London Docklands has published a map on its website showing the legacy of slavery in the area, flagging up monuments, buildings and street names – including a nearby street still in the name of Milligan.

Read about the London Mayor’s review of the city’s statues.    

Here’s a list of anti-racism charities and organisations in London that you can donate to.

And get yourself educated on racism in the capital. These are the black-owned bookshops in London currently trading.

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