A mural of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Croydon has become a topic of debate in a wider discussion surrounding memorials of problematic historical figures.
The mural of Churchill has been in Croydon for four years and was designed by David Hollier.
As a result of the Black Lives Matter protests, a petition was drawn up to remove the mural of the former Prime Minister, which was supported by members of the Labour-run Croydon Council.
The petition states: “Croydon is a rich, multicultural community, so why do we have an old, racist, bigoted, white man looking down on us?”
Joe O’Brien, the creator of the petition, wants to replace the mural with someone less divisive and who would be proud of the diverse community of Croydon.
Mia Fernandes-Pinto, 21, grew up in Croydon and agrees with O’Brien.
She said: “I understand how some people argue we shouldn’t attempt to rewrite or wipe out history. However, I think removing statues and murals of problematic historical figures can be positive.
“I think it is a step in the right direction of acknowledging that racism should not be tolerated, and racists should be condemned for it, not celebrated.”
A counter-petition was launched by Semaj Mallih to keep the Churchill mural in its place because he is a “national hero”.
This petition has 3187 signatures, whereas the petition to remove the mural has only 1150 signatures.
Fernandes-Pinto said: “The number of signatures isn’t representative of the whole population of Croydon, compared to data samples where you would take representative amounts of each group in accordance with the population make-ups.
“So maybe the reason is minorities aren’t signing or don’t use petitions as much.”
Hollier has no issue with his mural being removed, because he initially wanted to paint Kate Moss, an idea that was rejected.
Hollier said: “Why would a painting of Kate Moss, an incredibly successful and beautiful woman, born and raised in Croydon, be rejected over a man whose main connection to the area was almost dying at its airport whilst learning to fly?”
This was an interesting point, as a mural of Kate Moss would make more sense strategically, but there are quite a few people in Croydon who approve of the Churchill mural and do not want it removed.
Hollier added: “If the painting in question is replaced I hope that the artist replacing it is paid well for their services.”
Croydon councillor Chris Clark openly signed O’Brien’s petition to remove the mural.
The council’s communications manager Susie Rundle said: “Croydon has one of the largest collections of street art in Europe – it’s important to us that all our community are engaged in this and we always welcome discussion with all of them, and feedback around existing and future commissions.
“The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is carrying out a review to improve diversity across London’s public realm and ensure the capital’s landmarks suitably reflect London’s achievements and diversity – we fully support this approach.”