Plans to safeguard statues from 'woke worthies' after removal of slave trader memorial in Bristol

Protesters pulled down the statue and rolled it into Bristol's harbour. Credit: PA images

A change in the law could be introduced to better protect statues following the controversial removal of a memorial to the Bristol slave trader Edward Colston.

The proposed amendments will be outlined in Parliament today (Monday 18 January) after the Communities secretary said Britain should not try to edit or censor its past.

Robert Jenrick said planning permission should be obtained and local communities consulted before any statues, memorials or monuments are taken down.

His proposals come after protesters at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bristol pulled down a statue of the 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in June 2020.

After the figure was rolled into the harbour, Bristol City Council said a public consultation would be opened to decide what replaces the former memorial on the now-empty plinth.

An empty plinth now stands where the memorial once was. Credit: PA images

In an article in the Sunday Telegraph Mr Jenrick has revealed proposals to change legislation after the events in Bristol triggered a polarising debate.

He wrote: "Our view will be set out in law, that such monuments are almost always best explained and contextualised, not taken and hidden away."

Mr Jenrick said he had noticed an attempt to set a narrative which seeks to erase part of the nation's history, adding this was "at the hand of the flash mob, or by the decree of a 'cultural committee' of town hall militants and woke worthies".

Writing in the paper, he said: "We live in a country that believes in the rule of law, but when it comes to protecting our heritage, due process has been overridden. That can't be right.

"Local people should have the chance to be consulted whether a monument should stand or not.

"What has stood for generations should be considered thoughtfully, not removed on a whim or at the behest of a baying mob."

In the Summer of 2020 protests were held all over the world in reaction to the death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Since then a memorial to Sir Winston Churchill has been vandalised with the word "racist".

In the West Country, councillors in Exeter recently voted to erect information boards next to a statue of General Sir Redvers Buller while the future of the memorial is decided.

Meanwhile statues of Sir Francis Drake, another former slave trader, stand in Tavistock and Plymouth with petitions calling for their removal.

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