At last the city of Bristol is free of the Edward Colston statue.
During the Black Lives Matter protest yesterday, crowds pulled it down and chucked the thing into the harbour where it suffered as watery a grave as some of the 18,000 human beings his company killed over the time it shipped slaves to the UK.
First, the Covid issue. As you can see from the second picture any social distancing there was broke down, and I’m assuming everyone there won’t be quarantined for the next fortnight so it means the virus will spread. We can’t excuse one protest because we agree with its aims over any others, so this now opens the doors for other protests which on top of what seems like lockdown fracturing means there will be spikes and this will put pressure on an exhausted NHS. Other protests in the UK did manage distancing, and organisers did make it clear protestors have to quarantine afterwards, so that should be the basic minimum from now on.
As for the incident; good. That statue needed to go and for decades has been a smear on the city. When I first moved to Bristol and when I first found out what the statue was and who he was, it was outrageous that at that point in the early 90’s in a city which was so multicultural celebrated a man who brand human beings with his name. The problem is the name and acts of Colston are woven through Bristol to the extent it’d be impossible to purge it completely but it now falls upon institutions carrying Colston’s name to do what they can because frankly, if that isn’t going to happen now at a time when the world is focused on this, then it never will.
Bristol made its wealth through slavery, as did cities like Liverpool, Glasgow or any major city in the UK. In some cities a debate has raged for decades, in some (Glasgow for example) there’s only a serious debate starting now as to what to do with the names which hold the names of slave traders and trading, and also those institutions who are still financially benefiting from slavery even today.
Whether this moment leads to lasting change remains to be seen. We’re in a pandemic still and life won’t ever be the same once lockdowns are loosened further but there’s also a potential second wave being predicted, plus on top of that a global depression is coming so overall we’re entering uncertain times however these sort of times are hell to live through but it may end up with the sort of social change needed in the 21st century.