A British city has put a halt to an online campaign demanding the removal of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, with its mayor announcing the monument was safe.
Sir Peter Soulsby, the mayor of Leicester, responded to a Change.org petition calling for the removal of Gandhi’s statue. The petition, which has gathered over 6,000 signatures, called the famous non-violent protester a “fascist, racist and sexual predator.”
A similar push in Manchester called for a Gandhi statue’s removal due to his “well-documented anti-black racism,” according to the BBC.
LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 13: Keith Vaz, the former Member of Parliament for Leicester West helps form a barrier around the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on June 13, 2020 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
In an interview with LeicestershireLive, Souslby claimed that not only did he not want to remove the statue, but he did not believe he had the power to remove the publicly funded statue.
“There’s no prospect at all of us removing it. And I’m not sure we’d have the power to take it down anyway,” Soulsby said. “It was a community effort to put it there to celebrate someone who, for all of us, was a very inspirational leader in India who inspired the rest of the world with his creed of non-violence.”
The push to remove the statue has been bundled with the recent push to remove statues of individuals who engaged in slavery, slave trading or racism.
The U.K. has seen protesters tear down the statue of noted slave trader Edward Colston in Brighton, but also defacing the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square.
Some politicians, such as East Leicester MP Claudia Webb, believe the debate over Gandhi is an “unnecessary distraction” from the Black Lives Matter campaigns.
"His form of peaceful protest, like Black Lives Matter, is a force for change," Webb said. "There is not any desire from the black community to move that symbol of change."
Residents of Leicester have previously defended the statue, at one point forming a symbolic ring of protection around the statue.
In a letter to former Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, who played a part in putting up the statue, Soulsby assured that the statue would be safe.
“I am delighted to be able to give you absolute assurance that there is no prospect whatsoever of the council agreeing at any time to the removal of the statue – and certainly not while I remain mayor," he said.