Saturday 8 August, 2020

Petition to move Nelson statue from Heroes Square gaining steam

Lord Nelson Must Go Petition image from website

Lord Nelson Must Go Petition image from website

Yet again the call has gone out for the removal of Lord Horatio Nelson's statue.

An online petition started over the weekend is seeking signatures to remove the statue of Lord Horatio Nelson from National Heroes Square, formerly Trafalgar Square, and place it into the Barbados Museum.  

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This renewed call comes as racial protests in America after the murder of George Floyd have sparked a flurry of others across the globe, with numerous of these protesters targeting memorials and statues for removal on June 6 and June 7. Many of the statues moved by protesters are seen as memorials to racism and inequality.

Alex Downes, a Barbadian History and Law graduate, says he was prompted to make the petition as a result of seeing the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests across the United States of America.

"We all know what’s happening in the US with the Black Lives Matter protests and calls for change occurring across the entire world. This is a moment of reflection about racial injustices and I believe it also needs to happen here...with everything happening, I believe it's time we really make a change and stop glorifying a man who was in favour of continuing slavery." Downes said.

Previous attempts to remove the statue had been met with mixed reactions but have never been able to get farther than the turning of the statue on November 18, 1990.

On June 7, protesters threw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol harbour in England, during a Black Lives Matter protest rally. Some Barbadians on social media were catapulted to say that such could be done to the Lord Nelson statue. Some even said that the statue could still have value as an underwater exhibit seen by divers willing to go see that part of Barbados' history.


Not addressing the idea of Nelson under the sea, but opposed to the destruction of the statue as in the case of the protests in Bristol, Downes believes that the best place for Nelson is in the Museum as it would allow for a better contextualizing of who Lord Nelson was rather than glorifying him with this monument.

"History is something that you cannot change. I know that. But it doesn’t mean Lord Nelson has to be glorified. The statue can be placed in the Barbados Museum and an accurate history of his legacy be told there. In its place, I believe we can have a Barbadian create a monument to pay homage to our actual National Heroes like how was done for the Barbados Independence Monument at the Garrison." Downes stated.

Much of the resistance to Nelson's removal has previously come from locals who have said that there is value in keeping the statue where it is.

Sir Paul Altman previously stated that he saw positives in the statue for Barbadians.

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"We would wish that Nelson be preserved. Whatever negative implications Nelson may have to some people we believe that he has a tremendous amount of positive historical implications for Barbados." Sir Paul said in a 1990 interview with The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation.

While noted Historian, Professor Trevor Marshall believed that Nelson's standing in the way of abolition was a key point towards the argument for removal.

"That is enough reason for it to be removed. If Nelson had lived we can speculate that [the] abolition of slavery would have come later," Marshall said.

The petition for Nelson's removal stands near 3000-plus signatures and continues to climb.

Once concluded Downes plans on presenting the petition to Government with the hope that he is able to build awareness and support about the issues behind the statue and present a resolution.

As for those Barbadians who want to see it remain Downes hopes they can get behind the push to remove Nelson as it is something we should all be unified in.

"We are all Barbadians, and this is something that we should want for ourselves. The history of Lord Nelson is nothing anyone should be proud of, regardless of your race. We should all be together in this, and if you’re not, then have a word with yourself. Be willing to challenge yourself to think and make a change.

"Just because the statue has stood for so long doesn’t make it right. We can acknowledge our past, but actively shape our future and I believe the time to start doing that is now.

"Jane Goodall once said: 'What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make,' and I think we should apply that to ourselves as Barbadians," Downes said.

Those interested in signing the petition can do so  by clicking here

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