Layla Moran
© REUTERS / Mohiudin Malik / parliament.co.uk
(L) Protesters tear down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol (R) Lib Dem MP Layla Moran
An MP has urged the UK government to help local communities "speed up" the process of removing statues of slave merchants across the nation, prompting praise, anger and cynicism by turns online, given the timing of her request.

On Monday, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran published on Twitter the letter she sent to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden, in which she asked that the UK government allow local councils to involve their communities in assessing and removing the controversial memorials to slave traders.
Statues of slave merchants shouldn't still be standing - end of story.
The issue around the suitability of monuments commemorating individuals involved in the slave trade reached a tipping point on Monday. Anti-racism activists protesting the death of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis had torn down and jubilantly jumped on the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol the previous day. The monument had subsequently been rolled down the road by protesters and into the River Avon.

The intervention by Moran - who is running to be the next leader of her party - drew wide-ranging heated responses on social media. One commentator who praised the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon said that "we need reminding where the UK's wealth came from," and suggested the best place for such statues was in a "memorial admitting our shame at the treatment of slaves."


However, others on Twitter were skeptical at the timing of Moran's very public request, with one critic suggesting she was jumping on the "bandwagon," and claiming there hadn't been "a word from anyone on this before now."

Some of those left angered by Moran's call argued that "you can't erase the past" and insisted that the politician "should fight the issues of today, not the statues of the past."

No action was taken by the local Avon and Somerset police force to prevent the action. Chief Constable Andy Marsh defended his officers after they were criticized for not intervening.

In a video posted on Twitter, he said: "To arrest suspects would likely lead to injuries to suspects [and] injuries to officers."

However, Home Secretary Priti Patel branded the scenes as "utterly disgraceful," insisting that the protesters' act of "sheer vandalism and disorder" would only detract from their cause.

Protests about the killing of Floyd in the US on May 25, which were led by the Black Lives Matter campaign, have swept the globe in the past two weeks. The demonstrations have largely been peaceful, but there have been incidents of rioting.

London protests turned violent at the weekend, with police and demonstrators brawling outside the Foreign Office in Whitehall, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to claim the peaceful movement had been "subverted by thuggery."