Tear them all down!

The toppling of the statue to slave trader Edward Colston on Sunday 7 June has echoed around the world. As the far right attempt to mobilise to defend monuments to slave traders and blood-stained colonialists, and anti-fascists mobilise in support of Black Lives Matter, we are proud to post an eyewitness account of the demonstration as it happened by Katt Manleigh.

Photo: Katt Manleigh

The Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, on Sunday 7 June, was easily 10,000 strong. On arrival, it was immediately clear that this was not your typical political rally. As I cast my eyes over the College Green, I noticed a marked absence of the usual mass produced placards. In their place was a sea of homemade cardboard signs, each unique in size and shape. ‘Black Lives Matter’ adorned many of them, of course, but there were other slogans too: ‘Look at the Strength, Look at it!’ There were calls for justice for Black people killed by police, including other recent killings alongside George Floyd of Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor of Louisville; and there were messages that ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’

Photo: Katt Manleigh

The crowd was young, angry, and passionate, calling for justice and equality. They had decided to give the world a history lesson, by tearing down an effigy that represents the history of Black people’s oppression, that of slave owner Edward Colston. This was a man who oversaw the transportation of 84 thousand black people from Africa, between 1672-1689, many of whom perished at sea. It was only fitting that the people of Bristol, led by Black people, threw Colton’s statue into the harbour. The council has already dredged it up and is talking about putting it in a museum. But this should only happen after dialogue with Black communities in Bristol.

Black people are disproportionately affected by Covid-19, and many will have thought carefully about putting their lives and those of their families at risk. But we are also fighting a more enduring pandemic, that of racism, and Black people are having to repeat once again a message that should have been heard a long time ago. I will give the final words to a young black man, who looked me in the eyes, at the end of the day, when I had left the march to collect my bike. He said: ‘Black Lives Matter’.



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