November 22, 2021
From Alternative Bristol (UK)

Just 4 people are being taken to Trial on 13 December, out of the many hundreds who participated in the toppling of the statue memorialising the mass-murdering slave-trader Edward Colston during a #BlackLivesMatter protest on 7th June 2020. They were cheered on by thousands more watching, as the statue was pulled down from it’s pedestal from where it had looked down on us for 125 years, then rolled & dragged along the harbourside, and chucked into the harbour by Pero’s Bridge. Meeting a watery grave similar to that endured by so many enslaved peoples centuries before. Good riddance. Such racist idolatry shouldn’t be on our streets, but in a museum, fully contextualised in the history of the barbaric transatlantic slave trade (but a highly profitable trade for a tiny elite). It’s in a museum now of course, at M Shed, and perhaps one day Bristol Council may even get around to giving it it’s proper context?

We wrote previously that on the 8th of November, lawyers acting for 2 of the defendants, had an Abuse of Process application heard in Bristol Crown Court, before the Recorder of Bristol, Judge Blair (the most senior judge in town). That hearing was subject to reporting restrictions, the details of the application cannot be made public. Last week, after 2 delays, the Judge gave his ruling on the application, but at a court in London, not Bristol. That ruling too is subject to reporting restrictions, we have no idea what the judge’s reasoning was, we don’t get to see a written copy of his judgement. We do know he rejected the application though. Why the secrecy, what is there to be hidden? ‘Open Justice’ is one mantra coming out of the British judicial system…what a sick joke eh! The trial now goes ahead, starting on Monday 13th December, at the Crown Court, in Small St, Bristol BS1 1DB. Be there, from 8.30am.

This trial will likely be global news, as the statue toppling was. The toppling was a real shock to the ruling class, locally & nationally, as one of their figureheads was toppled, and their carefully constructed narrative over centuries was directly challenged. They want this trial to happen as quickly and quietly as possible. By charging the defendants with just 1 count of criminal damage each, but not with conspiracy or another higher charge, they hope to keep a discussion of the issues surrounding Colston away from the public discourse. By choosing Bristol’s most senior judge to hear the case, a man whose background is not protest cases but criminal fraud, they hope to play it down the line, allowing a focus solely on the events of the day and the alleged acts of the defendants.

The Judge could use his power in the courtroom to rule as inadmissable any evidence that may relate to Colston, his history & that of the slave trade and those who profitted from it, and of course the history of objections & protest related to Colston’s memorialisation, which goes back over 100 years. By starting the case in the middle of December, they must be hoping that given the time of year people might be too busy to pay much attention, never mind have the time to protest in solidarity with the defendants. The case may only finish just a day or two before xmas. So if the Prosecution (CPS) lose and the defendants are found ‘not guilty’…what a great time to bury bad news; and if the defendants are found guilty, it won’t be the easiest time to mobilise in response. Don’t let them bury the news, silence is compliance.

This case is not about criminal damage, and in any case, rather like a notorious damaged Banksy piece of protest art, the damaged statue will be worth many times it’s previous value. This case is about racism, and the inhumane treatment of enslaved Africans regarded as mere property, not as human beings. It’s about the racist attitudes that endorsed such a trade, and have continued ever since to hide the real truths & consequences of the memorialised slave-traders activities, that now today underpin modern day racism, discrimination & inequality. It’s about class too, the need of the ruling class to sell us a story about philanthropic rich old white men, whose generosity we are told benefitted us all. These rich white merchants, bankers, royals & politicians were no friends of the white working class – to them workers were just something to use, treated worse than dogs, that could be exploited & worked to the bone to bring them more profits. Or we could be sent away to kill & brutalise in their name as they subjugated more lands & peoples to their rule. This case is about power, politics, profit & narrative, and the crushing of dissenters who challenge them. So remember #WeToppledColston, black and white Bristolians together. And we have the power to do anything.

Trial Solidarity & Support

The 4 Colston Statue Topplers face a Trial that may include complex legal arguments, but boils down to a simple question – wasn’t it right that, after a century of objections, dissent & protest were met with zero response by the politicians and the Bristol ruling elite (ie the SMV), a statue memorialising a genocidal slave-trading bigot was no longer acceptable in our city, and had to be removed by the people? The Trial is expected to last maybe 8 days or more, the right verdict would surely spoil the Tories xmas roast!
Plans are afoot to ensure solidarity & support for the 4 defendants outside the court – get updates and info via the FB event (and see other links below).

Info & Background
– there’s a vast amount of info out there about the enslavement of peoples and the transatlantic slave trade for profit in particular, you can start with these links to get a decent background of the current Bristol context::
Bristol Radical History Group’s Colston Project articles & articles on Slavery & Resistance
Countering Colston campaign
All AlternativeBristol articles on the Colston Statue and Toppling
@GladColstonsGone coalition on FB and Instagram

Updates via twitter – @CounterColston + @BrisRadHis + @alt_bristol_ + @bristoldefenda1

Donate to the Bristol Topplers
Defence Fund Crowdfunder

(all images – internet scavenged)