| 12.1°C Dublin

Protesters in Bristol topple monument to city's slave trade shame

Statue is thrown into harbour on Black Lives march

Close

The statue of Edward Colston is toppled into Bristol Harbour. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The statue of Edward Colston is toppled into Bristol Harbour. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

PA

Bloodied: An officer receives medical attention after police clashed with protestors in Whitehall during a Black Lives Matter protest in London.

Bloodied: An officer receives medical attention after police clashed with protestors in Whitehall during a Black Lives Matter protest in London.

REUTERS

/

The statue of Edward Colston is toppled into Bristol Harbour. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

He died nearly three centuries ago but yesterday Edward Colston became a major symbol for the Black Lives Matter movement in Britain.

The toppling of the notorious slave trader's statue in Bristol by anti-racism protesters was greeted with celebration.

Protesters attached ropes to the statue before pulling it down.

Then images on social media showed some of the demonstrators appearing to kneel on the neck of the statue for eight minutes, recalling how George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Colston's statue was then rolled into the nearby Bristol Harbour - again to rapturous scenes.

And the symbolism of the statue's demise can't be overstated, not least because the bridge overlooking its new resting place is named Pero's Bridge, after Pero Jones - an enslaved man who lived and died in the city.

Police have launched an investigation and say they are looking for those who "committed an act of criminal damage."

Colston, born in 1636 to a wealthy Bristol merchant family, became prominently involved in England's sole official slaving company at the time, the Royal African Company.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands took to the streets of London yesterday, rallying for a second day running to condemn police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, with some wearing face masks bearing the slogan "Racism is a virus".

On Saturday, thousands gathered in central London in a demonstration that was peaceful but ended with small numbers of people clashing with mounted police.

London police chief Cressida Dick said 27 officers had been injured in "shocking and completely unacceptable" assaults during anti-racism protests over the past week, including 14 on Saturday. Two were seriously hurt and an officer who fell from her horse underwent surgery.

Authorities had urged protesters not to gather in London again on Sunday, warning they risked spreading COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. But demonstrators still packed the road outside the U.S. Embassy on the south bank of the River Thames.

Protesters later marched across the river towards parliament and Downing Street, pausing on the bridge to go down on one knee and chant: "Justice, now!"

In Parliament Square, many attached their placards to the railings outside parliament.

"Now is the time: we need to do something. We have become so complacent in the UK but the racism that killed George Floyd was born in the UK in terms of colonialism and white supremacy," said 28-year-old Hermione Lake, who was holding a sign reading: "white silence = violence".

Colston's statue wasn't the only one damaged yesterday. In the Belgian capital of Brussels, where thousands joined a Black Lives Matter rally yesterday, protesters clambered on to the statue of former King Leopold II and chanted: "Reparations."

The word "shame" was graffitied on the monument, which commemorates a monarch who presided over the death of 10 million people in Belgium's then colony of Congo.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, governor Ralph Northam has pledged to remove the statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee in Richmond.

And city leaders have committed to taking down the other four Confederate memorials along Richmond's prestigious Monument Avenue.

Irish Independent