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British politicians condemn toppling of Bristol slave-trader statue

Issued on: 08/06/2020 – 16:38Modified: 08/06/2020 – 16:38

British politicians on Monday condemned the destruction of a statue dedicated to a leading slave trader during an anti-racism protest, but a leading heritage body said there was no need to reinstate it.

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Demonstrators pulled down the 18-foot (5.5-metre) bronze monument to Edward Colston in the southwest English city of Bristol and threw it into the harbour on Sunday.

The protest was one of many across Britain in recent days in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of police in the United States.

Most marches were peaceful but there were flashes of violence, including in London, where the statue of World War II leader Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was defaced.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the clashes as "a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the toppling of the Bristol statue was "utterly disgraceful" and one of her ministers, Kit Malthouse, said criminal damage charges should be brought.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, said it was "completely wrong" to pull down the statue in that way.

But he said that in view of Colston's role as a top official in the Royal African Company in the late 17th century, it should have been removed "a long time ago" and put in a museum.

Edward Colston was responsible for 100,000 people being moved from Africa to the Caribbean as slaves. 20,000 died en route.

The statue shouldn't have been taken down in the way it was. But it should have been removed from our streets a long time ago. pic.twitter.com/1vkhE0khan

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) June 8, 2020

"This was a man who was responsible for 100,000 people being moved from Africa to the Caribbean as slaves, including women and children who were branded on their chests with the name of the company he ran," he told LBC radio.

Formula 1 icon Lewis Hamilton threw his weight behind the protesters, writing on Instagram: "TEAR THEM ALL DOWN. Everywhere."

"Edward Colston was a monster who bought, sold and traded Africans, human beings, and forced them into slavery until they died.

"I'm proud of the activists and organisers in Bristol," he added.

Manchester City and England footballer Raheem Sterling, who has often spoken out against discrimination, said: "The only disease right now is the racism that we are fighting."

Colston, who came from a wealthy merchant family, was also a member of parliament and philanthropist, donating huge funds to support schools, hospitals, almshouses and churches.

I don't ever condone criminal acts. I have seen too many burnt buildings, burnt cars, people who have lost everything, in riots.

But it is shameful to treat a slave trader like Edward Colston as an icon.

The statue should have come down a long time ago in a democratic way. #GMB pic.twitter.com/8qLVyh4kqZ

— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) June 8, 2020

Symbol of pain

Marvin Rees, Bristol's elected Labour mayor, said he believed the statue would end up in a museum, alongside banners from Sunday's Read More – Source

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