TeaThat decision by a jury in Bristol acquitted of “Kolston Four” Criminal damages, following his role in the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in June 2020, are a welcome sign that Britain is changing. Colston was one of Britain’s richest slave traders in the 17th century. It speaks to the importance of Bristol’s Victorian civic leaders when they decided to erect a monument to Colston in 1895, nearly a century after the slave trade was abolished (itself decades before slavery). Just 12 years earlier, the second statue of William Wilberforce, who campaigned for the abolition of slavery, was Made in his home city of Hulu, Yet in the southwestern English port, whose wealth was built on the prostitution trade, it was considered appropriate to honor Colston with a monument, and a plaque describing him as “virtuous and wise”.
Prosecution should never have been brought, and perhaps the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and other ministers were less vocal in their condemnation of the protests, which culminated in the Colston statue being thrown into the harbour. It is not clear whether this use of state resources was in the public interest. six other workers Was dealt with through a “restorative justice” route, including voluntary work.
The objection to the Colston statue occupying a prominent position in the center of Bristol had long been, and part of a wider, local movement To remove tribute to the slave trader from the city (including the renaming of its main concert hall). Emotions eventually boiled over among a section of the public as passionate objections to the racial injustice sparked by Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd less than two weeks ago.
The verdict is not, as one of the defendants himself pointed out, a green light “Start demolishing all statues in the UKColston was a special person. His monument belongs to a specific time and place – and is now in the Bristol Museum, thus debunking the idea that taking it down was an attempt to “erase” the past. By jury decision Turns out that members of the public are more inclined to think about the messages embodied in our built environment, including monuments – many of them Victorian. They accepted the defense’s case that it was the appearance of the statue, and the plaque failure to update, which would constitute a moral – if not legal – offense.
It is hard to calculate with the past. Britain was once an empire that ruled vast areas of the world. Astonishing levels of greed and cruelty are part of our history, as well as a religiously motivated “civilization” mission that sought to export Christianity around the world. Everyone who cares about knowledge should support efforts to increase public understanding of all this. organizations across the country including National TrustGood work is going on.
Yet, so far, the government has set its face against anything that might make the heritage less celebratory, denouncing it as “awake”, in the broader context of British country houses (and town squares). Condemns all attempts to keep artifacts that fill the its repressive police bill Seeks to dramatically increase prison sentences for those convicted of criminal damages (currently, the maximum is three months for damages of less than £5,000).
Idols are symbols, and tackling racism requires much more than moving them. But accepting historical injustice is part of building a more equal society today. Instead of complaining about the way the law is implemented, as some ministers have done, the entire government should think again. Britain is better off without Bristol’s monumental Colston.