Toppled UK slave trader statue to go on temporary display
A controversial statue of a 17th-century British slave trader toppled last June in Bristol will go on temporary display in a museum as city authorities debate its fate.
The bronze statue of Edward Colston, a former top official in the Royal African Company, was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter rally in the southwest English city on June 7.
It was dragged through the city and dumped in the harbour, as anger at the death of George Floyd in US police custody the previous month prompted protests in numerous British cities and around the world.
Four people will stand trial later this year after pleading not guilty to criminal damage charges.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is pressing ahead with contentious legislation to toughen jail terms for vandalism of historical artefacts.
The statue was retrieved from the harbour and a conservation team at local museum M Shed cleaned it and stabilised spray painted graffiti to prevent flaking.
It will now form the centrepiece of a temporary exhibition at the museum opening next Friday — almost a year to the day after it was pulled down — which will also feature placards from the protest and a timeline of key events.
Meanwhile, Bristol’s city council is going to launch a survey, asking locals about what they think should happen to the statue.
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, who previously described its toppling as a “piece of historical poetry”, said the exhibition and survey aim “to start a conversation about our history”.
In response to the incident, Rees formed the We Are Bristol History Commission last September, which he said would “be leading that conversation with citizens over the coming months”.
“The 7 June 2020 is undoubtedly a significant day in Bristol’s history and had a profound impact not just in our city but also across the country and around the world,” he said.
“The future of the statue must be decided by the people of Bristol,” Rees added, urging all residents to participate.
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