Black Lives Matter: the world responds after Bristol protesters tear down statue of slave trader Edward Colston

  • The moment protesters at a Black Lives Matter event in Bristol pull down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston

Police have launched an investigation to identify protesters who pulled down a statue of a slave trader during a Bristol Black Lives Matter protest.

The bronze memorial of Edward Colston was torn down and rolled through the city centre before being thrown into the harbour.

Around 10,000 attended the otherwise peaceful protest through the city centre on Sunday (7 June) in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Downing Street has called the removal a "criminal act", adding it was not "how we do things in the UK".

A spokesperson said the Prime Minister did not agree "the UK is a racist country" but added while progress has been made on tackling racism, "there is more to do".

Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned the actions as "utterly disgraceful" and said the toppling of the statue "undermines" the actions of protesters.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid, who is from Bristol, also expressed his disapproval.

A YouGov survey revealed more than half of Britons support its removal, however only 13% approve of the way in which it was done. 33% disapprove of the removal in any capacity.

The city's Mayor said he felt no "sense of loss" after the city's statue was pulled down, but added he "cannot condone the damage."

Marvin Rees said "it's important to listen to those who found the statue to represent an affront to humanity" and described it as a "personal affront" to him as he was growing up.

In a statement released shortly after the protest, Marvin Rees called on people in Bristol to "challenge racism and inequality".

He also thanked those who took part in the event peacefully and confirmed the placards left by protesters will be put on display in M Shed.

Less than 24 hours after it happened, work started in the city to clean the plinth and remove the placards that were laid underneath.

Work has already started clean up the area in the city centre.

Avon and Somerset Police is now trying to identify the protesters who tore the statue down.

However, Superintendent Andy Bennett told ITV News officers allowed those taking part to "make their point and make their mark".

Bristol Stand Up to Racism gave their full support for the protesters who brought the statue down.

A spokesperson said: "We must remember the facts. Colston traded from Bristol in Africans during the early period of the slave trade in the 17th century as part of his role as Deputy Governor of the Royal African Company, which had a monopoly of the West African gold and slave trade.

"85,000 Africans were taken from their homeland to be sold as slaves in the Caribbean in the company’s ships. 12,000 were children, and a quarter of all slaves on the ships died. Their bodies were thrown overboard. All of them were branded. Such a crime would invoke criminal prosecution of mass slaughter and denigration of human rights in contemporary times. Colston was totally complicit in these crimes, but the rich elite of Bristol saw him as a person to be celebrated.

"He died in 1721, but his membership of the Society of Merchant Venturers in Bristol served him well. The Society, along with other business interests in the city of Bristol proposed more than 150 years after his death to honour the man who had made it possible for them to become wealthy from the slave trade. A statue was proposed, to be paid for by public subscriptions.

"However, the ordinary citizens of Bristol did not wish to pay for such a statue, and in the end the stature was only built with a larger contribution from an ‘anonymous’ donor and finally erected in 1895. It was not a popular stature, as some have claimed, but rather a monument to Bristol’s slave past and the wealth it produced for the city’s rich elite."

Bristol band Massive Attack also supported the protesters' actions.

Former chancellor Sajid Javid, who grew up in Bristol, slammed those who pulled the statue down.

Responding to a BBC video on Twitter, he said: "I grew up in Bristol. I detest how Edward Colston profited from the slave trade. But, THIS IS NOT OK."

He continued, "If Bristolians wants to remove a monument it should be done democratically - not by criminal damage."

Monday's newspaper front pages are dominated with images of Colston lying on the ground and being thrown into the water.

Meanwhile videos that were shared online have attracted millions of views from people all over the world.

It comes after years of campaigning where groups have expressed anger at the commemoration of a figure that was so prominently involved in Britain's slave-trade past.

One protester, John McAllister, said it is an "insult" to the people of Bristol that a man whose successes were "off the back of slavery" was allowed to be enshrined in the city.