George Floyd protests: Slave trader statue was an ‘affront’, says Bristol mayor as he reveals what will happen to it now

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees tells Sky News that “what’s happened to this statue is part of this city’s history”.

The slave trader statue that was toppled in Bristol was an “affront”, the city’s mayor has said – but it will still “highly likely” end up in a museum.

Speaking on Kay Burley@Breakfast, Marvin Rees said that “as an elected politician I cannot condone criminal damage”.

But he added: “I can’t pretend, as the son of a Jamaican migrant myself, that the presence of that statue to a slave trader in the middle of the city was anything other than a personal affront to me and people like me.”

Mr Rees continued: “We will get the statue back and it will highly likely end up in one of our museums.

“What’s happened to this statue is part of this city’s history and it’s part of that statue’s story.”

The statue of Edward Colston was yanked off its plinth and later sprayed with paint and dumped in the city’s harbour during protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on Sunday.

The killing of George Floyd in police custody in the US has sparked demonstrations around the world, including in the UK.

While the protesters here have voiced their anger at the killing of Mr Floyd, they have also sought to highlight issues faced by black people in the UK and call for action to tackle racial injustice.

Thousands turned out across the UK for the demonstrations, despite warnings for people not to gather during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Speaking in the wake of the Bristol incident and further clashes between protesters and the police in London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the anti-racism protests have been “subverted by thuggery” that betrays their cause.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Bristol incident was “utterly disgraceful” and would detract from the protesters’ cause.

“Sheer vandalism and disorder is completely unacceptable,” she said.

Ms Patel wrote on Twitter on Monday morning: “These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery. Justice will follow.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told Sky News: “The way we do things in this country is by democratic process, not by mob rule.

“Undoubtedly in what was done to that statue, a crime was committed. An investigation should be under way and I hope that prosecutions will follow.

“We can’t have decisions by mob.”

Asked about these comments, Mr Rees said: “I don’t think that’s a very helpful way to describe it.

“I think the home secretary is showing a lack of understanding of where the country is right now.

“I would love to hear some outrage about the 25% of kids in my city who live in poverty, the growing inequality, the deaths in custody both here and in the United States, the militarisation of US streets, the Windrush scandal.

“You can’t be selective with your outrage.”

In London, 12 people were arrested and eight officers injured during Sunday’s protests.

The Metropolitan Police said most of these were for public order offences, while one was for criminal damage following an incident at the Cenotaph.

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On Saturday, 29 people were arrested and 14 officers injured in the capital.

The Bristol protests were attended by an estimated 10,000 people and there were no arrests, police said.

Avon and Somerset Police has said it is investigating after a “small group” committed criminal damage.

Colston made his fortune off the back of the slave trade in the 17th century and helped build schools, churches and homes for the poor in Bristol.

A petition to remove the statue – which had stood for more than 120 years – had received 11,000 signatures.

The mood here is really reflective. Quite a number of people have gathered, people have come to take photographs of the plinth where, until yesterday, the statue stood.

The vast majority of people agree with what the protesters did.

The people we’ve been speaking to seem to think that this statue had no place in the centre of Bristol in the present day.

Edward Colston was a big part of this city’s history.

This street is called Colston Avenue, there’s a tower just across the road called Colston Tower, there’s a school named after him.

He spent a lot of money in Bristol on schools, churches, but that wealth came from the slave trade.

It’s not comfortably sat with many Bristolians for quite a number of years now that such a man should be celebrated.


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