Jarrow viking statue 'far right' worries were quashed years ago
A joint effort from Northumbria Police and South Tyneside Council to review the history of the region’s monuments has made headlines again, but it was closed in 2020.
A joint police and council review into statues and landmarks in South Tyneside from 2020 is making headlines in the national press once again after a Freedom of Information request from The Telegraph.
The site uncovered documents and decisions that were taken during the review, which ultimately found that there was no need to alter any of the monuments on display in the region.
It has emerged that during the review, Northumbria Police raised potential concerns that the statue of Viking warriors and a shopping centre in Jarrow could have "associations with far-Right symbolism and Nordic mythology".
The statue in question shows two unrealistic soldiers with helmets and shields and was made in the 1960s. It likely references Viking raids on the North East in the Middle Ages.
The statue and nearby The Viking Centre were flagged as amber in the traffic light coding system used by Northumbria Police as a site that may be of concern - the Old Town Hall and Customs House in South Shields received a similar flag due to their connection with race riots in the 1930s.
However, these findings were reviewed, and the origin of the statue and the name of the shopping centre were deemed not to be a cause for concern. This review was launched in June 2020 and closed by the end of July in the same year.
A statement from the Council said: “We have carried out a review of council-owned statues and key landmarks and we have not identified any to be inappropriate or particularly controversial.
“As a result of the review, we are not planning to take any further action at this time.”
The Telegraph also quotes David Spender, a former Metropolitan Police officer who now researches crime and policing for Police Exchange, who said that the use of police time on the task "appears to be a bizarre use of police resources". This concern was also voiced online by some members of the public.
At the time of the review, statues and monuments across the UK and the globe were being vandalised and destroyed in the wake of protests following the murder of George Floyd in the USA which sparked a new wave of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The decision to examine the borough’s public monuments followed a call for all local authorities to do the same after protesters toppled a statue of 17th Century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and threw it into the city’s harbour in June 2019.
In some of these incidents, counter-demonstrators turned out to protect sites they felt were at risk and police presence was needed. The review into monuments looked to avoid such clashes, which would also have required police time.
Similar assessments have been carried out by other local authorities in the North East and across the country, including by Newcastle City Council.