Tory councillor calls slave trader a ‘hero’ after Bristol statue toppling

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A Conservative Party councillor has described 17th century slave trader Edward Colston as a “hero” to the city of Bristol, claiming that his statue was pulled down by a “criminal mob”.

According to the BristolLive website, Cllr Richard Eddy, who represents the ward of Bishopsworth on Bristol City Council, condemned the toppling of the controversial statue amid protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd in police custody in the US.

Floyd died last month after a police officer in Minneapolis restrained him by holding a knee on his neck – an incident that sparked worldwide protests over police violence.

Black Lives Matter protests
Protesters dragging the statue of Edward Colston to Bristol harbourside (Ben Birchall/PA)

The bronze memorial to Colston stood in Bristol until it was pulled down, dragged through the city and dumped in the harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday.

In comments published by BristolLive on Tuesday, Cllr Eddy said: “I am horrified and appalled by the rank lawlessness which was exposed in Bristol on Sunday when the famous statue of Edward Colston was attacked and vandalised by a criminal mob.”

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He added: “Edward Colston to me and generations of Bristolians stands out as a hero whose wealth has continued to benefit the housing, education and healthcare of the citizens of this city.”

Cllr Eddy also claimed he had had been contacted by “outraged” constituents over the incident, and hit out at the local police force and Bristol’s mayor.

He said: “Since this frenzied thug violence on Sunday, I have received a stream of outraged responses from constituents and others – more than I’ve ever received in such a short time in my 28-year council service.”

He added: “I am equally outraged by the feeble comments, effectively condoning violence, of Mayor Marvin Rees and the pathetic hand-wringing of senior Avon & Somerset police officers. Over the coming days and weeks, both need to be held to account by Bristolians.”

In 2001, Cllr Eddy resigned as deputy leader of the council’s conservative group after adopting a golliwog as a mascot and facing criticism from racial equality groups and his own party.

Asked about Cllr Eddy’s praise of Edward Colston as a “hero”, prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said on Tuesday: “I haven’t seen those comments, the PM won’t have seen those comments.”

Pressed if the Prime Minister regards Colston as a hero, the spokesperson said: “It’s not a discussion I’ve had with him, you’ve got his words from last night and I have nothing more to add.”

Following protests across the UK on the weekend, Johnson acknowledged many of the activists’ concerns were “founded on a cold reality”.

He said leaders “simply can’t ignore” concerns that Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups face discrimination in education, employment and in law.

The prime minister added that those who harmed police or property would face “the full force of the law”.

Chief constable Andy Marsh of Avon and Somerset Police has defended his officers for not intervening to stop protesters pulling down the statue.

He said that had his officers intervened to arrest those responsible, there would have been a “very violent confrontation”.

The force has launched a criminal damage investigation into what happened to the statue, which has long been a source of controversy in the city where it has been situated since 1895.

Meanwhile, Rees said he felt no “sense of loss” after the statue was pulled down.

Rees said he could not condone the damage to the statue, but praised the police response.

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  • Show Comments
    1. I agree toppling the monuments to racists, imperialists or tyrants is a good thing, but we must ensure that in being sensitive we don’t expunge their acts from history altogether. That’s what their apologists would prefer, that their acts become forgotten. Like they never happened. And can so easily happen again.

    2. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in the wake of Bristol’s toppling of a slave trader Edward Colston’s statue into Bristol harbour proposes removal in London of similar historic personage’s idols.

      Fine – but, please Mayor Khan we do not want replacement statues marring London’s vistas and littering urban corners in order to satisfy notions of political correctness. In my view publicly displayed statues perpetuate elitism and impose on the public conscience ideas about who our betters and superiors are. All statues should be taken down whether slaver, soldier or any other ‘high and mighty somebody’. The do-gooders Mayor Khan proposes to replace slave traders with is anyone’s guess. In any case, who is to judge what do-gooder deserves their carved idol stuck high on a granite plinth or a road renamed to the new do-gooder which is also proposed? Better to have tinkling water fountains or art pieces take up a statue’s place if necessary that might have an innocuous plaque attached with a do-gooder’s mention that doesn’t overbearingly foist ‘a politically correct person’ on us good though their words and deeds may have been or are to cause of welcome improvement in our lives.

      If an idol to replace slave traders is insisted upon then how about neutral images say of the fauna and flora of the UK? Or, like Trafalgar Square’s 4th Plinth give space to common or garden local artists to display for a period their creativity as is also suggested in another comment here.

      Meanwhile, if it’s stone grind it up for road rubble, if bronze cast into bells that might ring out the end to imperialist and other idolatry.

      “You shall know them by their fruits” is sufficient enough without erecting sculpted patronising eyesores representing ‘some municipality’s nobody’ on urban plinths dotted here and there in untidy unaesthetic random fashion about our shared metropolis.

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