December 17, 2021
From Alternative Bristol (UK)

The Trial of the #Colston4 ignited today, and it turned into a very bad day for Colston himself and his centuries old cheerleaders the Society of Merchant Venturers. Finally, it seemed that the right people were on trial – those who profited from the slave-trade & slave ownership, and have continued to profit ever since. At the start of the trial the CPS QC Billy ‘posh boy’ Hughes told us that the trial had nothing to do with Colston’s dark past nor the history of his links to the slave trade/slavery, nor indeed the history of protest against that Colston statue. But today those issues were centre stage, and rightly so! That’s why our feature image for this article is a quote from former Labour Councillor Ray Sefia (1995-2000), from comments he made that were quoted in the Bristol Post on 2 February 1998, and are referenced from the Timeline of Protest here. Sefia, the only black person on the Council in 1998, was of course totally ignored at the time, but he was right then, and today both defendant Sage Willoughby and expert witness David Olusoga referenced him…because Sefia was spot on then and is so right now. Mayor Rees take note!

Back to the testimony and the court heard some powerful words from one of the defendants, Sage Willoughby, who had grown up in the St Pauls area of Bristol where there is a large Afro-Caribbean population;

I have been signing petitions since I was 11 years old to have that statue removed, I spoke to my elders about it, I was quite frankly laughed at – they said they had given up signing petitions because nothing was ever going to happen.

Imagine having a Hitler statue in front of a Holocaust survivor – I believe they are similar,

Having a statue of someone of that calibre in the middle of the city I believe is an insult, and I will continue to believe that what ever the outcome of this (trial).

The court also heard from noted historian Prof. David Olusoga, an expert on the slave trade. He talked about the many horrors of that were inflicted upon the victims of the trade. Noting how, back then, the word ‘brand’ only meant to burn a mark into the flesh of an animal or person (a slave) as the symbol of ownership;

“They would brand Africans who they had purchased; they would brand them with the initials RAC. … A piece of hot metal in the shape of those initials was burned into their chests,” he said, adding that this would be done to children as young as nine years old.”

A slave code made black people property that could be bought, that could be sold, that could be insured; [but] that couldn’t be murdered because they were not human beings: they could be destroyed … and that was carried out routinely.”

It is when you hear words like this that the true meaning of the statue sinks in – they venerated a man, an elite of the elites, who oversaw and profited from the torture and murder of men, women and children. The question is not ‘why did they topple that’ but ‘why the hell was it there in the first place?’

The court also heard testimony from Bristol resident Lloyd Russell, who told the jury;

“[That] his ancestors were slaves and he and his family had suffered racial abuse in the city. Mr Russell said he didn’t realise until he left school that he was robbed of his black history. As he got older he looked at his own history and found his family history goes back to slavery.”

Court is adjourned until Monday morning now and the case continues.

If you want the context on the case, see here.

Oh and you might want to see Prof. Olusoga owning some people on Twitter;