By Robin Connolly, Co-Editor-in-Chief, and Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief 2019/20
A prominent 19th century statue of Edward Colston, a merchant and slave trader, was torn down by protestors in central Bristol.
During Black Lives Matter protest in central Bristol on 7 June 2020, four protestors removed and vandalised the statue of Edward Colston, a famous 19th trader from the city who acquired a significant part of his wealth through the trade and exploitation of slaves.
The incident occurred midway through the march at around 2.30pm. The protestors first covered the statue with a plastic sheet, before tying ropes around the neck and pulling it down onto the ground face down. They then proceeded to hit the statue with skateboard, spit on the statue and spray it with silver paint.
The protests in Bristol have been as part of the wider Black Lives Matter movement which has followed the death of George Floyd by a policeman in the US. Earlier in the day, protestors kneeled peacefully on College Green for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time policeman Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of Floyd before he died.
Demonstrators then rolled the toppled statue toward the harbor before pushing it into the river Avon.
One observer, Polly Chilcott, who saw the moment in which the statue fell into the water, told Epigram: 'At first I didn’t know what my take was going to be on it but at the same time Colston literally imported slaves through these.
'In a way he’s now drowning in the water he bought the slaves in. If you think about it as well that statue’s going to be in the water probably forever now, which I think’s pretty monumental for Bristol.
'I love Bristol so much but it doesn't have a very nice past and it’s not good to ignore it and forget about it. It’s good today that we looked at it.’
Avon and Somerset Police have announced they are investigating the incident and are looking for people 'who clearly committed an act of criminal damage'.
Meanwhile, in response to the issue, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has said he knows the incident will 'divide opinion, as the statue itself has done for many years'.
He added: 'However, it’s important to listen to those who found the statue to represent an affront to humanity and make the legacy of today about the future of our city, tackling racism and inequality. I call on everyone to challenge racism and inequality in every corner of our city and wherever we see it.'
Live reporting of the protests can be found via our Twitter.
Featured Image: Rufus Atkins