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Letters: We confronted Bristol’s bloody legacy of slavery and racism

Issue 2787

The statue of Colston in Bristol exhibition.


Between 1698 and 1807 a total of 2,114 ships set sail from Bristol to Africa and then to America and the Caribbean, carrying over half a million slaves.
 
The slave trade enriched the Bristol merchants. 
 
They gathered together in cult-like clubs such as the Society of Merchant Venturers, while the ordinary people of Bristol toiled in brass
and tobacco factories to make their riches possible. 
 
The city reeks of the legacy, divided between the rich of the area of Clifton and the poor in the outlying areas. 
 
Edward Colston was a leading slave trader in the city, and his hands were soaked in the blood of the trade. 
 
He died in 1721 but 170 years later the city’s merchants wished to “honour” him by raising public subscriptions to erect a statue of him. 
For years groups such as “Countering Colston” campaigned to have the statue removed. 
 
To its shame, Bristol city council consistently avoided the subject and has done little to recognise the crimes of slavery in the city.
 
Nothing changed until a ten thousand-strong Black Lives Matter protest took place in the city in June 2020 and tore down Colston’s statue. 
The story reverberated around the world and inspired a reckoning with Britain’s colonial and slave trading past. 
 
In this context the charges brought by the Crown Prosecution Service of ‘criminal damage’ against the Colston four were indeed absurd. It is a credit to the defence team that their case was built on an anti-racist basis by outlining the horror of slavery.  
 
The fact that the statue remained so long was correctly portrayed by the defence as an insult to the people multi-cultural Bristol. 
Colston, in fact, was the real criminal.
 
As the Colston 4 emerged from the court a great cheer went up from the supporters gathered outside. Anti-racists everywhere can take inspiration once more from events in the city.   
 
Martin Upchurch 

Bristol


Blair is still a butcher

Over 950,000 people have now signed a petition to have the knighthood awarded by the queen to Tony Blair in the New Year “honours” list rescinded. 
 
An opinion poll says two thirds of people in Britain oppose the award. 
Quite right too.
 
Following the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in September 2001, Blair pledged his unconditional support for military action by US President Bush in Afghanistan and then Iraq. 
 
Blair went on to lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that they could be deployed within 45 minutes. 
 
Blair’s former Cabinet colleague Geoff Hoon now says Blair suppressed advice questioning the legality of war on Iraq. He also gave Hoon a dressing down for suggesting to US officials that British troops would not go to war in Iraq if parliament voted against it.
 
Without Blair’s support, Bush would have found it very difficult to persuade the US Congress to sanction war. 
Disgracefully, Labour leader Starmer has backed Blair’s award. 
 
Blair is in fact a war criminal personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi citizens. 
He should be facing trial at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, not receiving an “honour” from the queen.

Rob Hoveman

Bradford


Bring class politics to anti-hunt protests

On its annual Boxing Day parade around town, our local fox hunt faced stiff opposition from a determined protest of local people and Hunt Saboteurs. 
 
The town’s Facebook page had an unprecedented number of complaints, and the protest was well attended, very noisy and caused quite a stir. 
 
Clearly rattled, the toffs on horseback were not expecting opposition.
 
There was lots of conversation among protesters about animal welfare, rural poverty, the problems of intensive farming pesticides, loss of habitat and food production. 
 
A placard with “Hunt Tories not Foxes” went down well, and class politics were definitely part of the discussion.
 
Socialists who live in rural areas are part of the battle to rid the countryside of cruelty and environmental destruction. Let’s all be part of future actions like this. 
 
Mary Littlefield

South Norfolk


New bill no victory for LGBT+ people

Priti Patel recently announced that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill would wipe past convictions for people who have been subjected to homophobic laws. 
 
Although this is important, it is too little too late from the Tories who are using this to present a vastly authoritarian bill as in some way progressive. 
 
This scheme is targeting “wrongs of the past”. 
 
If the Tories wished to right wrongs then they would be tackling the three years plus waiting list to get the first appointment in Gender Identity Clinics.
 
If the Tories wanted to make amends they could clean up from the mess of Section 28 which criminalised the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools.
 
Children today rarely get any education around LGBT+ relationships with Ofsted warning schools are still “confused” about what they can teach.
 
This new bill is no victory for LGBT+ people because it attempts to criminalise forms of protest. 
 
We must not forget the fact that we have LGBT+ rights today is from the Stonewall Riots in the 1960s, which exploded into a mass movement for liberation.
 
Sky Golding
Liverpool


It’s a fast fashion flop 

A clip of influencer and creative director of fast fashion website Pretty Little Thing, Molly-Mae Hague has gone viral online for all the wrong—and right—reasons. 
 
In the clip, she says if you work hard enough you can become wealthy and successful. Large numbers of people have reacted to the clip to tear her logic apart. 
 
Hague has only become richer because of the labour of those that work for her and the workers who make clothes on poverty wages. 
It doesn’t seem like she works hard to me. 
 
Annalise Mitchell 
Edinburgh


Support the tube strikes

In response to criticism of striking RMT union tube workers, I would say a strike can only help stop the spread of Covid. 
Everyone has the right to withhold their labour to improve their working conditions or income. So it’s not the union who’s being selfish, it’s the employer.
 
Christopher Wheeler
On Facebook


Thoughts on disaster film 

Don’t Look Up is a film that perfectly captures the type of capitalism that our leaders support.
Although in the end it’s sad, it serves as a warning.
 
@Sadysy 
on Twitter 

Refugees’ cries ignored

Tennis player Novak Djokovic was recently detained in an Australian hotel for not meeting the country’s Covid-19 entry requirements. 
There was an outcry in the headlines about the conditions he was living in. 
Refugees in the same hotel have complained about terrible conditions for years. 
Where is the outcry for them? 
 
Ben Ridland
Blackpool 

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