One year on, Bristol celebrates the toppling of Edward Colston

Colston toppling anniversary
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The people of Bristol are celebrating the anniversary of the toppling of slave-trader Edward Colston’s statue. They gathered round the empty plinth to celebrate what they call “one less prick on a pedestal”.

Exactly one year ago, anti-racist activists pulled down the monument in the city centre during a Black Lives Matter protest. Around 10,000 people attended the demonstration in summer 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd. Crowds cheered as the racist statue sank to the bottom of the harbour on what was a monumental day in history. It was a small but significant step in telling the truth about Britain’s shameful colonial past.

On the anniversary, people have unfurled banners and made speeches. A guerilla artist has also erected a plaque at the harbour at the spot where Colston was sunk.

Colston plaque

Years of campaigning

The toppling of the statue came after years of campaigning and protests by Countering Colston and its supporters. The group had previously achieved a number of significant concessions, including the decision by Bristol Music Trust to change the name of the Colston Hall. And after the events in June 2020, a number of buildings and landmarks around Bristol named after the slave-trader finally bowed under pressure to change their names.

Glad Colston’s Gone released a statement on the anniversary, saying:

We…support the anti-racist aims of the protests throughout the summer 2020. We abhor the legacies of institutional and structural racism arising from European colonisation and the trafficking, enslavement and transportation of African men, women and children into plantation slavery in the Caribbean and Americas.

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The campaigners continued:

We believe that raising the statue of the slave-trader Colston in 1895, some 60 years after the Emancipation Act, and repeatedly ignoring expressions of concerns by citizens, campaigners, and artists, has been deeply damaging to Bristol’s Black community and to our common humanity.

We believe the statue has stood as a monument to the disingenuous way power is wielded, impacting those of African descent adversely and disproportionately in policing, health, housing, education outcomes, job opportunities and life chances.

Colston toppling anniversary

Don’t prosecute those on the right side of history

It may come as little surprise that the government objected to the pulling down of a statue of a racist, murderous white man. In fact, instead of conceding that Britain’s wealth is built on killing and slavery, the Tories vindictively responded by vowing to make it an imprisonable offence to damage statues. When the highly controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is passed, anyone who damages one of the UK’s many colonial statues could find themselves in prison for up to ten years.

Right now, four people are currently awaiting trial for the toppling of the Colston statue. Glad Colston’s Gone said:

Hundreds can clearly be seen on camera to have been involved in various activities that led to this object being pushed into the harbour. Despite this, authorities have decided to single out four people who are now charged with criminal damage. They await trial in December 2021.

They continued:

We recognise that this statue has been a point of division for many years and welcome the fact that it no longer stands in our city centre. We do not believe the trial against four people is in the best interests of our city and urge that charges be dropped.

The people of the UK must wake up to our shameful past. We must acknowledge that our current society is still built around white supremacy. It is vital that we stand by the Colston defendants, and that we show our outrage at a government that continues to celebrate this murderous colonial legacy.

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  • Show Comments
    1. The photo makes it look like 4 people, a child and a dog turned up. Someone’s scribbled something on the pavement. It certainly doesn’t look like the people of Bristol could be bothered to turn out for this. Some sad case sticking a pretend plaque up, and a Nissan Micra load of people is hardly something worth writing about.
      As for the diatribe about Britain’s ‘shameful past’, could The Canary point me in the direction of a country that has done more to tackle slavery over the years? Castration of slaves in the Middle East was still legal well into the latter half of the last century, and slavery is still a blight on the modern world. Ownership of slaves in the UK was first outlawed in 1086 in the Domesday book. I, and many, many others are proud of this country and it’s history. Part of the reason the left gets increasingly thrashed at the ballot box is their disdain for our history.

      1. So the fact that other countries were or are involved in the slave trade makes it alright then?
        One of the reasons why the left gets thrashed at the ballot box is because the right refuse to be honest about our history and they have the power of the Tory Establishment and complicit mainstream media.
        The fact is that Britain built its “civilised” modern society on the backs of slaves – not only those slaves Africa but the indigenous slaves working all hours in dangerous conditions in our factories, up chimneys and down the mines (frequently young children).
        The people we should be proud are people like William Wilberforce, Robert Owen, Aneurin Bevan who did a lot to mitigate this disgraceful state of affairs.
        I might add that the evil smears against Jeremy Corbyn, should tell us a lot about how corrupt and politically insane Britain has become.
        We do have a lot to be proud of but we are continually undoing so much of that good work by following the “greed is good” mantra of the basket case that is the USA.

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