By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2735

Anger as Bristol activists who tore down slaver Colston’s statue are charged

This article is over 3 years, 4 months old
Issue 2735
Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement after they tore down the Edward Colston statue in Bristol in June
Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement after they tore down the Edward Colston statue in Bristol in June

Four protesters have been charged with criminal damage for their part in toppling a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol in June. 

Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, Jake Skuse and Sage Willoughby will all appear in front of Bristol magistrates court on 25 January. 

A crowd pulled down the statue and tossed it into the Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest on 7 June.  

Topple statues that are monuments to racism
Topple statues that are monuments to racism
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Bristol City Council recovered it from the water and said it had suffered £3,750 worth of damage. 

Faisa, a socialist activist in Bristol, told Socialist Worker that she thought the charging of the protesters was shocking. “Bristol was built on the back on slavery,” she said. “And it has become home to waves of Jamaican, Somali and other migrants who have protested against the statue since they’ve been here. 

“We tried to get the statue removed democratically, but the council didn’t listen. Nobody listened. 

“So people did it themselves.” 

People in Bristol had for years called for the removal of the statue and the renaming of buildings named after Colston. 

But their protests were largely ignored by the city council. A protester at the time said, “There’s been a petition circulating for years to remove the statue. I guess the people got fed up with asking.”

The tearing down of the statue was a result of the confidence felt by those who took part in the BLM protests. Faisa said, “The removal of the statue gave the Black Lives Matter movement a boost. 

“It gave so many people a huge sense of empowerment that we are still feeling now.” 

Only our collective power can end oppression
Only our collective power can end oppression
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“After the protest I was getting texts from my friends in London telling me how brilliant it was. 

“It didn’t just make national news, it made international news.” 

The tearing down of Colston happened as protesters were taking down racist statues from Washington in the US to Belgium. 

After witnessing a statue being taken down in Birmingham, Alabama, in June, Zakia told Socialist Worker that bringing it down “brought everyone together”. “Not just black people but people from all nations and religious beliefs,” she said. 

She added that when she saw videos of the Colston statue in Bristol it made her want to cry. “I was so happy to see it come down,” she said. “It made me feel like the movement was growing.” 

Faisa said now that protesters are facing punishment, it’s more important than ever to say that what they did was right. “Edward Colston stood for nothing but evil,” she said. “It’s clear we can’t put trust in a system that will incriminate people for taking down racist statues.” 

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