December 20, 2021
From Alternative Bristol (UK)

So day 5 of the trail got underway after some initial delays, and we heard from another of the accused, Rhian Graham, who said that “Democracy had well and truly broken down” on the Colston statue issue as the ‘usual’ methods of petitions, protests, elected officials supporting action – all had failed the city. The closest Bristolians came to some form of historical reality was an updated plaque on the statue, but even that minor act failed when Colston’s heirs in the city, the Merchant Ventures, played politics with the process and the plan ended up being shelved. Graham noted;

“It is that abuse of power that causes so much frustration – the abuse of power and their stepping in and not allowing the truth of history to be told. … At that point, what do you do? How long must you ask to be heard and not be listened to? … (The council) had long enough to recognise how much harm a monument to a slave trader does in a very multi-cultural city – it doesn’t take much to realise that harm …  Over 100 years of dissent – someone should have listened.”

Graham was followed by Cleo Lake;

Former Lord Mayor of Bristol Cleo Lake told the court she had successfully removed a portrait of Colston from the mayor’s parlour.

She told the jury she felt “a great sense of relief” and “overjoyed” when the statue was toppled.

“I was on my feet,” she told the court. “People can’t understand why it was still there.”

A character witness for Graham said he had known her about six years and described her as an “exemplary and trusted” worker within a research-led community project.

Meanwhile, debate on the issues raised by the case was also jumping into focus as one of Bristol’s most famous exports – the band Massive Attack – weighed in on the issue, again highlighting the failure of the ‘normal’ political system to address the concerns of Bristolians on the issue;

Bristol’s failure to reconcile the barbarism of its past sits in stark contrast to Liverpool, a city with a similarly stained history, but where the International Slavery Museum proudly stands & no shadow body with direct connections to the Atlantic slave trade still operates. Over 80 years, consecutive city councils and 2 directly elected Mayors failed to remove the Colston offences. The first elected mayor (independent) planned to sit as a member of the SMV’s, an anomaly we challenged via open letter. The 2nd (Labour) chose to deprioritise the issue. The 1st Mayor promised to rename Colston Hall if we supported his candidacy. That renaming + the physical removal of signage finally occurred 8 yrs later: after the Colston statue was removed -4 yrs after the 1st Mayor departed office, & 4 yrs since the incumbent had taken office

As artistic representatives of the city internationally, we’ve experienced & understood the harm Colston’s legacy has done to Bristol’s reputation overseas, & we could not explain or understand a contradiction of power that allowed for major changes to housing, infrastructure & economic policy, but powerlessness to redress the Colston offences.

Also, today at the trail there were complex legal arguments, Judge Blair ruled as inadmissible a defence witness with an up-to-date valuation of the damaged statue; an issue we have noted before.

Furthermore, another famous Bristol cultural export, Banksy, put out a video on the issue to his 11.3M followers;