Toppled UK slave trader statue retrieved as more monuments reviewed

AFP , Thursday 11 Jun 2020

Bristol, Britain
The statue of Edward Colston falls into the water after protesters pulled it down in Bristol, Britain, June 7, 2020. (Reuters)

The statue of a slave trader toppled by anti-racism protesters was on Thursday fished out of the harbour in the English city of Bristol, as another historical monument was set to be taken down.

Authorities in the seaside town of Bournemouth will later remove a statue of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement who also supported the Nazis.

Demonstrators in Bristol pulled down the statue to Edward Colston on Sunday and threw it into the water, as part of a protest sparked by the death in US police custody of African American George Floyd.

The city council said it was retrieved early on Thursday morning and "is being taken to a secure location before later forming part of our museums collection".

Colston was a top official in the Royal African Company in the late 17th century, which sent into slavery hundreds of thousands of people from West Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas.

Born into a wealthy Bristol family, he was also an MP and philanthropist, funding schools, churches and almshouses across the city.

The destruction of his statue drew condemnation from the government but reignited calls across the country to remove other historical monuments.


Learning the truth

In Bournemouth, the council said it wanted to "create time" for debate on Baden-Powell's legacy and "minimise the risk of any public disorder" that could be provoked by leaving his statue on the quay.

The University of Liverpool meanwhile has said it would rename a building named after former prime minister William Gladstone because of his links to the slave trade.

And on Tuesday, authorities in east London removed a statue of Robert Milligan, whose family owned sugar plantations in Jamaica, from the Docklands district.

Colston's name remains on many streets and buildings in Bristol, but his legacy has long been controversial.

The city council had already decided to relabel his statue before it was torn down, but talks on what exactly to write had become deadlocked.

Mayor Marvin Rees has announced a new commission to research Bristol's past.

"The only way we can work together on our future is by learning the truth of our beginnings, embracing the facts, and sharing those stories with others," he said.

He confirmed the statue would be put on display alongside placards from the Black Lives Matter protest, and said the public would be asked what should replace it.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has also announced a review of landmarks and monuments, to look at whether they could better reflect the city's diversity.

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