Devon

Plymouth square named after slave trader to be renamed

Sir John Hawkins Square Image copyright Google
Image caption Sir John Hawkins Square is next to Plymouth Magistrates' Court

A public square in Plymouth named after a 16th Century slave trader is to be renamed, the city council has said.

Sir John Hawkins Square is named after the Elizabethan sailor who is described in the Encyclopaedia Britannica as "the first English slave trader".

It comes after anti-racism protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol on Sunday.

Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans said the city needed to acknowledge "some aspects of its past".

In a statement made in the council chambers, he said the city had an "incredible maritime history".

Image copyright Plymouth City Council
Image caption Tudor Evans said the authority stood "in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement"

Mr Evans said Plymouth "cannot change its history, nor does it seek to", but could use it as "a reminder of the atrocities".

He also said the Labour-led council's thoughts were with the family and friends of George Floyd, who died last month after a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Mr Floyd's death has sparked worldwide protests.

"As a council, we have already signalled that we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement," Mr Evans said.

Image copyright Google/BBC
Image caption One road sign for Sir John Hawkins Square has disappeared

"This terrible event in the US illustrates how deeply discrimination and oppression both past and present are felt, and it has highlighted once again that Plymouth needs to continue to acknowledge some aspects of its own past."

Hawkins and his cousin, Sir Francis Drake, made voyages in the 1560s to kidnap people from Africa, carrying slaves from Guinea in West Africa to the Spanish West Indies.

A petition to change the name of the square has been signed by nearly 3,000 people since Sunday.

Another petition has called for a seafront statue of Drake in Plymouth to be taken down.

Mr Evans said the statue of Drake - a former Plymouth mayor - on the Hoe was listed, but the council would "aim to ensure existing monuments" were "accompanied by a narrative referring to their role in the slave trade".

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