'Mischievous' to suggest inaction on Edward Colston statue - Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees

  • Marvin Rees on Colston statue and racism in Bristol

Bristol's Mayor has said to suggest there was inaction over the Edward Colston statue would be "mischievous" as he insisted he has been "on the front foot" of tackling issues driving racism in the city.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century slave trader was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest on June 7 last year, before being dumped in Bristol Harbour.

Four people - Rhian Graham (30), Milo Ponsford (26), Sage Willoughby (22) and Jake Skuse (33) - were charged with criminal damage and were cleared by a jury at Bristol Crown Court yesterday (January 5).

Bristol Mayor Mavin Rees and Bristol City Council have been criticised for not acting more quickly on the Colston statue.

In an interview with ITV News today (January 6), the Mayor defended the action he has taken on tackling racism in the city.

He said although he is pleased the statue has gone, he denies any claims of inaction.

"I make no secret of my personal desire historically for the statue not to be there," he said.

"I am descended from enslaved Africans - but wanting something to happen and the way you go about doing it, particularly as a political leader, are different things."

He said "things have happened in the city" to tackle racism, including the renaming of Colston Hall.

"That's a massive event but it hasn't got much attention because it didn't happen in such a spectacular way," he said.

He said racism in Bristol is "driven by housing inequalities, mental health inequalities, health inequalities, general inequalities in education outcomes and access to employment".

He added: "We've been on the front foot of tackling all those issues but it's about what you do with finite resources."

Sage Willoughby, Jake Skuse, Milo Ponsford and Rhian Graham outside Bristol Crown Court Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

The Mayor of Bristol went on to cite the renaming of Colston Hall as a big step in the right direction, saying: "People may say that it is insignificant, but it is a demonstration of action.

"The name of the Colston Hall is now the Bristol Beacon, it didn't happen in a dramatic way but that has happened.

"The fact that we didn't prioritise [the statue] over Colston Hall and the other policy areas we've been putting our resource into is another debate - but to suggest that there has been inaction is mischievous."