January 18, 2022

Statue unbolted in Bristol: activists supported by Banksy

UNITED KINGDOM – A year and a half after the statue of British slave trader Edward Colston was unbolted in Bristol, UK, four people are on trial as of Monday, December 13. To support them, the artist Banksy put on sale Saturday T-shirts whose “all the profits will go to the defendants so that they go to drink a pint”.

These gray T-shirts represent an empty statue base on which rests a rope, surmounted by the inscription “Bristol”, the city where the artist is from. On the ground around the pedestal are debris and an abandoned sign.

As soon as the places of sale were announced, the British rushed to the stores, creating queues of dozens, if not hundreds, of people.

These T-shirts are on sale at a price of 30 pounds for adults (35 euros, plus VAT) and 25 pounds for children. But copies have already been found on the Internet, including eBay, found Bristol Live, with prices of up to 9,000 pounds (around 10,500 euros).

The controversial statue of Edward Colston

The statue of Edward Colston, who had grown rich in the slave trade, had been controversial for years. He is said to have sold 100,000 West African slaves in the Caribbean and the Americas between 1672 and 1689, before using his fortune to finance the development of Bristol.

On June 7, 2020, his statue was overturned and then thrown into the waters of the Avon, a river that crosses the city, during a demonstration after the death of the American George Floyd by the police in the United States. The four people tried, aged 21, 25, 29 and 36, are being prosecuted for damage. They pleaded not guilty in January.

A year after its unbolting, the statue, recovered, had been at the center of a temporary exhibition in Bristol dedicated to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United Kingdom.

This movement provoked an introspection in the United Kingdom around the colonial past of the country and its representation in the public space. Several leading British organizations, such as the Bank of England or Lloyds, which insured slave ships, apologized and several local authorities, such as the City of London, decided to remove statues linked to slavery.

In Bristol, two schools and a performance hall that bore Colston’s name were renamed.

See also on The HuffPost: England: the images of the demonstration which degenerated in Bristol