Protesters return to call for Geffrye statue to fall

 Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington Diane Abbott speaks at Hoxton protest.

Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington Diane Abbott speaks at Hoxton protest calling for the removal of the Geffrye statue. - Credit: Sasha Simic

Hundreds of people returned to protest at the gates of a Hoxton museum, calling for it to remove a controversial slave-trader statue.

The protest on Saturday (August 21) was the latest in a series of demonstrations against the prominent placement of a statue of Robert Geffyre, a 17th century merchant who profited from the transatlantic slave trade.

Campaigners calling for "Geffrye to fall" included local Stand Up to Racism groups, members of the Labour Party such as Hackney MP Diane Abbott, Green party members and representatives of the Kurdish and Turkish community group Day-Mer.

Ms Abbott said at the protest: “Bringing down this statue would be a victory for progressive politics, a victory for people of colour, a victory for young people of colour, and people who support anti-racism. I am committed to campaign with you all until we see Geffrye fall.”  

Last July, almost 80 per cent of respondents living near to the museum said in a public consultation that they wanted the statue gone, while an internal recommendation also suggested its removal.

The statue of Sir Robert Geffyre stands on one side of the recently renovated museum building. 

The statue of Sir Robert Geffrye stands in a prominent position at one of the entrance's to the museum. - Credit: Holly Chant

However in October 2020, documents released by the Museum of the Home also revealed governmental pressure may have played a role in the museum's decision. 

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Culture minister Oliver Dowden set out his opposition to the statue’s removal in a letter to the chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees, Dr Samir Shah.

Mr Dowden stressed he would expect the museum to be “mindful” of its position “as a government-funded organisation”.

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Meanwhile, at Saturday's protest Hoxton councillor Carole Williams added: “There’s a movement here that the trustees don’t get, and Dowden doesn’t get. Change is coming and Geffrye Must Fall.”   

A plaque was installed in time for the Museum’s reopening in June this year.

A plaque was installed in time for the Museum’s reopening in June this year, discusses the controversial history of the Geffrye statue and the buildings Almshouses. - Credit: Sasha Simic

In response to the calls for the statue's removal, a spokesperson for the Museum of the Home told the Gazette: "The Museum of the Home is continuing to explore options for the statue and to listen carefully to all the issues raised.

"We are committed to being open about the history of Geffrye on site and online, and to confront, challenge and learn from the uncomfortable truths of the origins of the Almhouse buildings before they were converted to a museum."

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