A “racist” pub sign which has been likened to a gollywog has been removed following mounting pressure from campaigners to have it taken down – but locals claim it will be replaced at a later date.
Thousands of people signed a petition demanding the removal of a caricature of a black man above the 18th century Greenman pub sign in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.
Derbyshire Dales District Council said on Monday it would remove the sign with “immediate effect” but when the head was taken down on Monday evening, locals said they had done so to protect it.
“The head will be restored while on the ground and returned to its position at a later date… local councillors were also there too,” Mark Redfern told the PA news agency.
“Saved by the people of Ashbourne.”
In a Facebook post, Mr Redfern said the head would be given “a lick of black paint” and claimed the move was to save it from vandalism.
The petition against the head, which had amassed more than 28,000 signatures by Monday afternoon, drew inspiration from an anti-racism demonstration in Bristol, which saw protesters topple the statue of slave trader Edward Colston before dragging and heaving the bronze monument into the harbour.
The Grade II-listed pub sign, which arches over St John’s Street, depicted the face of a black man, which one 20-year-old anthropology student from the town – who did not want to be named – said resembled a gollywog, a 19th-century rag doll which is largely considered racist.
“I think people are ashamed of it,” she said.
“Having it in the middle of the street in a small town is so unwelcoming.
“It should have been taken down a long time ago and put in a museum.”
Matthew Holt, a 19-year-old international relations student from Ashbourne, also signed the petition, stating: “It seems such an obvious racist sign.
“I think it’s important we address our history; we can’t change it but this shouldn’t be displayed in the public eye.
“It should be in a museum where we can learn about it with a description to contextualise it.”
Their demands prompted Derbyshire Dales District Council’s decision to remove the monument from the sign.
A council spokesman said earlier: “We’re removing the head from the sign with immediate effect.
“We agree that the sign itself is not only a public safety concern right now, but that this is an issue that requires urgent discussion and consultation.
“The sign was gifted to the district council a number of years ago and is currently protected by a Grade II structure listing.
“Legally, only Heritage England or the Secretary of State can remove this listing, which means we need to take on board the views of our own councillors and local people before taking forward any representations. This will happen soon.”
However, a petition has also been launched which seeks to keep the monument in place, with supporters stating it is a part of history.
On the petition page, which has garnered more than 2,700 signatures, organiser Shaun Redfern, 17, from Ashbourne, described the sign as a tourist attraction which “should be kept because of the history for the town”.
He said: “I believe that the sign is not even the smallest bit racist.”
He added: “Are we supposed to deny our past now and get rid of old artefacts?”
A sign saying ‘Save Me’ was hung from the head on Monday evening before the face was taken down.
With the growing surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has sparked global protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, a number of petitions have emerged online demanding controversial monuments in the UK are taken down.
In Edinburgh, a petition was launched to remove the statue of slave owner Henry Dundas in St Andrew Square and for streets bearing his name to be renamed.
Petition organiser and local resident Nancy Barrett, 22, said: “I feel as though Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade has been silently swept under the rug and a lot of people think Scotland is innocent, which isn’t the case.
“The height of the statue alone shows how highly Henry Dundas was thought of when it was erected.
“If it were to be removed it would denounce the glorification of him, and force people to learn about who he really was.
“The longer it stays up, the longer Scotland is denying its past by refusing to amend something that should have happened years ago.”
In Wales, Cardiff’s first black Lord Mayor, Dan De’Ath, is calling on local councillors to remove the statue of Sir Thomas Picton, stating it is “no longer acceptable” for it to remain in City Hall.
Iâve written to #Cardiff Council asking for the removal of the statue of sadistic 19th Century slave-owner, Sir Thomas Picton, from the Marble Hall in @CityHallCardiff. You can read my letter here 👇🏾👇🏾#BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/fPJuvLsmzN— Dan De'Ath (@DeAthCardiff) June 8, 2020
In a letter to the leader of Cardiff Council, he said: “As you may be aware, Picton was celebrated for his role in the Peninsular War and for being the highest-ranking officer killed at Waterloo.
“Picton also served as governor of Trinidad where he oversaw an authoritarian and highly brutal regime.”
He continued: “Picton was also accused of the execution of a dozen slaves and his considerable fortune was due in a large part to the slave trade.”
Another petition was launched to take down the statue of Robert Clive, known as Clive of India, in The Square in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, which described the 18th century figure as “nothing more than an figure of oppression and white supremacy”.
Similarly, thousands of people have signed two new petitions calling for the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes to be taken down from Oriel College at the University of Oxford.