By Teddy Coward, Co-Editor-in-Chief, and Robin Connolly, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hundreds of protestors gathered around the Cenotaph in Bristol city centre today, Saturday 13th June, as part of an ‘All Lives Matter’ protest.
The group of predominantly white men have been holding placards that read: ‘Listen [Superintendent of Bristol, Avon & Somerset police force] Andy Bennett – we are NOT FAR RIGHT, just ordinary people of all races from Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Newport etc. united to defend the Cenotaph, to defend the memory of people who died so that we are able to have the freedom to protest.’
Today’s event is in response to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest on Sunday (7th June), in which the statue of 17th century slave trader was removed by demonstrators.
Police at the scene estimate there are approximately 300 demonstrators present, though many have dispersed from around the Cenotaph.
There are a number of police standing between a few on-looking Black Lives Matter protestors and those supporting 'All Lives Matter'. It has been reported that retorts of 'Scum' and 'Fascists' were shouted at the BLM representatives.
'All Lives Matter' protestors have also been seen climbing on the plinth where the Statue of Edward Colston previously stood.
An ‘All Lives Matter’ protest is currently taking place around the Cenotaph. pic.twitter.com/fLNXsUHQ3y— Martin Booth (@beardedjourno) June 13, 2020
One demonstrator, Liam, 42, told Epigram he was at the demonstration because of 'the lack of respect that has been shown to our Cenotaphs and war memorials around the country by protestors'.
Another protestor Michael Fitzjames, 38, said he was at the event because last week he ‘witnessed racist thugs and rioters tearing down our history, which in my eyes and in the eyes of all these people here is racism’.
‘In London we have seen the desecration of the statue of Winston Churchill - a World War Two and English hero and that [Cenotaph], which we are protecting, represents the fallen heroes of our country and that is why we are here.’
At one moment, the group were seen clearing away the ‘Black Lives Matter’ placards from around the plinth where Edward Colston’s statue had fallen.
One demonstrator is reported to have said they were ‘clearing up the rubbish’.
An onlooker, John MacAllister, 71, who attended last weekend’s events, described the group of ‘middle-aged blokes’ as a ‘motley crew’ and spoke in praise of last weekend’s ‘amazing’ Black Lives Matter protest that ‘rang round the world’.
‘What [today’s demonstrators] seem to forget,’ he said, ‘is they’re defending the Cenotaph. And all those men who fought in the Second World War sacrificed their life to defend freedom and to defend the rights and liberties of all the people in the world.’
Today’s demonstration coincides with several protests happening in the UK, including in London around a now boarded-up statue of Sir Winston Churchill.
Avon & Somerset Police have said: 'We are aware of the ongoing protest taking place at the Cenotaph in Bristol city centre today.
'We engaged with the protest organisers ahead of the event and reminded them of their responsibilities to make sure steps are taken to protect the health of themselves and others as the COVID-19 pandemic poses a clear and present risk to all our communities.
'Our priority is to maintain public safety at all times and we have an appropriate policing plan in place so we can do just this.
'We’d encourage people to carefully consider their own health and the health of their friends and family before deciding to take part in a gathering. Anyone who does attend should follow the Government restrictions and guidance, especially around social distancing.'
Featured Image: Robin Connolly
What do you make of today's protests?