Whoops. It looks like unilaterally tearing something down and then putting something else in its place doesn’t fly well with local lawmakers. Go figure.
The statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was defaced, removed from its plinth, and tossed into the harbor during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, U.K. Colston was born in Bristol to a wealthy merchant family in 1636. In 1680, he became a slave trader with the Royal African Company, where it’s believed that during his time there, 84,000 African men, women, and children were transported as slaves. That isn’t what the bronze statue of Colston was honoring, however. In 1895, the memorial was placed in the city center in his honor because Colston was a philanthropist who bequeathed his wealth to local Bristol charities upon his death.
There stood the statue for 125 years until it was yanked from the plinth on June 7 and shoved into the drink.
The Colston statue was removed from the harbor on June 11.
The statue will be placed in a museum along with some of the BLM protests signs.
After the statue was removed, Jen Reid, a protester, stood on the now-empty Colston plinth and raised her fist. She was photographed and the image caught the eye of local artist, Marc Quinn, who created a resin and steel statue of Reid.
The artist then directed a team of ten people to erect the statue on top of the still-empty plinth in the early morning hours of July 15.
But, by 5 AM on July 16, the new BLM protester statue was ignominiously carted away by the city in a recycling truck.
The Bristol Post reports that city officials say that the statue will be “held at a museum for the artist to collect or donate to their collection.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, has insisted that whatever replaces said in a statement:
My relentless commitment is to build a city for all Bristolians, with all our differences.
To this end, the future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol. This will be critical to building a city that is home to those who are elated at the statue being pulled down, those who sympathise with its removal but are dismayed at how it happened and those who feel that in its removal, they’ve lost a piece of the Bristol they know and therefore themselves.
The mayor of Bristol says that it isn’t so much removing a statue of a BLM protester, it’s removing a statue that had been put there without permission.
"We aren't taking down a statue of a Black Lives Matter protester, we're taking down the work of an artist who erected it without permission."
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) July 16, 2020
He insists that there should be a city-wide conversation about what should replace the Colston statue.
There were some protesters with signs opposing the removal of the new statue. These are most likely some of the same folks who yanked down (or supported yanking down) the Colston statue in the first place. How ironic.
Several videos of the removal of the BLM statue were circulating on Twitter.
The sculpture of Jen Reid was removed from Colston’s plinth this morning by Bristol City Council. pic.twitter.com/5gFJm2VhLg
— Martin Booth (@beardedjourno) July 16, 2020
It was there for 24 hours ⏰
The statue of protestor Jen Reid, which was placed on top of Edward Colston’s plinth, has been removed by @BristolCouncil
The authority says it will be held in a museum for the artist to pick up, or he can donate it to the museum’s collection. pic.twitter.com/pKdjI8oF4x
— BBC Radio Bristol (@bbcrb) July 16, 2020
— Pete Simson (@SimsonPete) July 16, 2020
Activists don’t have the right to decide what should and should not be honored in public spaces.
Frankly, it seems to me that Bristol’s leadership–even though they’re somewhat “woke”–did the right thing with a difficult situation. They didn’t just allow protesters to remove and replace a statue, and they’re consulting the residents about what should be in the town square. They’ve also not completely erased Edward Colston, but instead placed the now defaced statue into a museum with information about who he was, the controversy surrounding honoring him, and some of the protests signs.
That seems way more civilized than just hauling a bronze statue down in a frenzy of mob rage and throwing it into the nearest body of water. But hey, that’s just my opinion.