Demands grow for removal of Edward Colston statue from Bristol City Centre

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By Teddy Coward, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The online petition has gathered new momentum with over 7,000 signatures added in the last week.

An online petition calling for the removal of a statue of Edward Colston from Bristol City Centre has amassed over 9,450 signatures.

Colston was a Bristol-born merchant who acquired a significant part of his wealth through the trade and exploitation of slaves.

The campaign to remove the bronze statue, which has looked out on Colston Avenue since it was first erected in 1895, has been going on for at least three years but the 38 Degrees petition has gathered new momentum with over 7,000 signatures added in the last week.

The petition reads: ‘Edward Colston was a Bristol-born English slave trader, merchant and Member of Parliament. Much of his wealth was acquired through the trade and exploitation of slaves.’

‘Yet we celebrate and commemorate him with a statue in our beloved city centre. He has no place there.

‘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.

‘We hereby encourage Bristol city council to remove the Edward Colston Statue. He does not represent our diverse and multicultural city.’

Whilst history shouldn't be forgotten, these people who benefited from the enslavement of individuals do not deserve the honour of a statue.

When asked in an interview with Epigram about the removal of statues that have links to Bristol’s slave history, Professor of History of Slavery Olivette Otele said: ‘I think Bristol has been doing a lot and will need to do even more.

‘There is a disconnect really between people asking for statues to be removed and people working towards racial and economic inequalities and social inequalities.

‘We know that the [Edward Colston] statue is a provocation for many people, not just those from the black community. But we also know that it tells a piece of Bristol's history and, in fact glorification of the past that Bristol has done, in terms of what people call 'the forefathers of the city'.

The 38 Degrees petition calling for the statue's removal has gathered new momentum with over 7,000 signatures added in the last week.

‘So what should we do? Is [removing the statue] the priority? Or is it addressing racial inequality? Or can we do both? And I think Bristol can definitely do both.’

Is [removing the statue] the priority? Or is it addressing racial inequality? Or can we do both? And I think Bristol can definitely do both.

Third year UoB English undergraduate, Yasmin Badesha, who signed the petition, told Epigram: ‘Whilst we cannot ignore Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade, the removal of figures like Edward Colston would send a message of solidarity towards Black Bristolians who still remain very much in the racial minority, and continue to face economic exclusion and discrimination in Bristol.’

Another recently-graduated Bristol student, who signed the petition, said: ‘The fact that we still have a statue of someone who was pioneering the slave trade in the city just shows the complete lack of progress. It feels so wrong.’

Bristol City Council have been contacted for comment.

Featured images: Wikimedia


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