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Protesters topple statue of British slave trader

June 7, 2020

Protesters in the UK have pulled down a statue of a slave trader during a demonstration in honor of George Floyd. Since Black Lives Matter protests began, controversial statues have come down in cities around the globe.

England Black Live Matter Proteste in Bristol
Image: picture-alliance/empics/B. Birchall

Protesters in the UK pulled down the state of a famous slave trader and threw it in a harbor on Sunday, the second day of global weekend demonstrations against the death of an American man at the hands of the police.

"Today I witness history," William Want tweeted from the city of Bristol. "The statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol slave trader, was torn down, defaced, and thrown in the river. #BlackLivesMatter."

Footage of the event shot by witnesses showed a crowd of a few dozen people as they tied a rope around the neck of the statue before pulling it to the ground.

They then carried it to the harbor, where protesters shoved it into the water, where it sank. The statue's face had been smeared with red paint.

According to police reports, around 10,000 people attended Bristol's Black Lives Matter demonstration on Sunday.

Read more: George Floyd killing spurs fresh protests across Europe

5,000 slaves a year

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel called the act "utterly disgraceful."

"That speaks to the acts of public disorder that actually have now become a distraction from the cause which the people are actually protesting about," Patel told Sky News.

Labour Party lawmaker Clive Lewis tweeted support for the statue's removal.

"Someone responsible for immeasurable blood & suffering. We'll never solve structural racism till we get to grips with our history in all its complexity. #BLM," he wrote.

In 1680, Colston started working for the Royal African Company, a mercantile company with a monopoly on the west African slave trade. At that time, the company was transporting around 5,000 slaves a year. Colston went on to develop a reputation as a philanthropist in Bristol.

Read more: Europe must step up anti-racism efforts, rights agency says

More statues come down

Protesters around the globe have turned their frustrations towards controversial statues.

On Saturday, protesters in the United States brought down a statue of a Confederate general in Richmond, Virginia. Such statues are a flashpoint of controversy in the US.

A small group of protesters pulled down the statue of General Williams Carter Wickham, erected in 1891.

In 2017, some of Wickham's descendants had called for the statue to be removed.

A city in the US state of Michigan on Friday chose to remove a controversial monument to the city's longest-serving mayor after the protests reignited calls for its removal.

A crew removed the statue of Orville Hubbard, a polarizing figure who supported segregationist policies and made racist comments throughout his 35-year tenure as the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, a post he held until 1977.

The statue had become a "divisive symbol rather than a unifying one," a city spokeswoman said.

Video footage on social medial showed protesters in Brussels on Sunday as they gathered are a statue of former King Leopold II. Leopold is said to have overseen the death of 10 million Congolese people.

kp/sms (AFP, AP

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