Black Lives Matters protesters in Bristol, England, tore down a statue commemorating the life of slave trader Edward Colston.
The statue of Colston was erected in 1895 and has been a great source of controversy as whilst Colston has given a great deal of money to the city, he had earned this money through slavery.
From 1672 and 1689, Colston’s company kidnapped and sold over 100,000 slaves, transporting them from West Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas. Slaves, including women and children, were kept in horrific conditions often suffering from dehydration, dysentery and scurvy which killed over 20,000 during the crossings. Slaves were branded on their chest with the company’s initials, RAC.
Responses to the monuments being taken down
The taking down of the monument has been met with a mixed response.
In Bristol, there has been a long campaign to take down the statue and monuments commemorating the slave trader. In 2017, Colston Hall, the city’s largest concert hall, announced that it would change its name and in 2018, Bristol’s city council announced that a second plague would be placed next to the statue explaining Colston’s role in slavery. In 2018 a portrait of the slave owner was removed from the mayor’s office. Recently, a petition for taking down the statue, gained over 11,000 signatures. The petition read:
“Whilst history shouldn’t be forgotten, these people who benefited from the enslavement of individuals do not deserve the honour of a statue. This should be reserved for those who bring about positive change and who fight for peace, equality and social unity.”
Commenting on the removal of the statue, Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, stated:
“I know the removal of the Colston Statue will divide opinion, as the statue itself has done for many years. However, it’s important to listen to those who found the statue to represent an affront to humanity. Let’s make the legacy of today about the future of our city, tackling racism and inequality.”
Thangam Debbonaire, Bristol West MP and shadow housing secretary, called for the removal of the statue in 2018 stating, the city “should not be honouring people who benefited from slavery”.
However, the taking down of the statue has also provoked criticism. Britain’s home secretary, Priti Patel, has urged the police to take action and told Sky News;
“I think that is utterly disgraceful and that speaks to the acts of public disorder that have actually now become a distraction from the cause in which people are protesting about.”
Supt Andy Bennett, of Somerset and Avon police, said his force was carrying out an investigation into criminal damage.
Read more from the Guardian.