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London may remove statues as Floyd's death sparks change

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A banner is taped over the inscription on the pedestal of the toppled statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, England, Monday, June 8, 2020. The toppling of the statue was greeted with joyous scenes, recognition of the fact that he was a notorious slave trader a badge of shame in what is one of Britains most liberal cities. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON – London's mayor announced Tuesday that more statues of imperialist figures could be removed from Britain’s streets after protesters knocked down the monument to a slave trader, as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis continued to spark protests — and drive change — around the world.

On the day Floyd was buried in his hometown of Houston, Texas, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was setting up a commission to ensure the British capital's monuments reflected its diversity. It will review statues, murals, street art, street names and other memorials and consider which legacies should be celebrated, the mayor’s office said.

“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been willfully ignored,” Khan said.

Even before the new commission got underway, officials in east London removed a statue of 18th-century merchant and slave owner Robert Milligan from its place in the city’s docklands.

Joe Biggs, mayor of London's Tower Hamlets borough, said that following the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston by demonstrators in the city of Bristol on Sunday, “we’ve acted quickly to both ensure public safety and respond to the concerns of our residents, which I share.”

It was the latest sign that international protests of racial injustice and police violence that Floyd’s May 25 death spurred are already creating change. A white police officer who pressed a knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes has been charged with murder.

Statues, as long-lasting symbols of a society’s values, have become a focus of protest around the world.

On Sunday, protesters in Bristol hauled down a statue of Colston, a 17th-century slave trader and philanthropist, and dumped in the city’s harbor.