So finally we are here: the British legal system grinds its gears as the Government attempts to punish four people out of the hundreds and thousands who protested, for the alleged crime of toppling the statute of an abhorrent mass-murdering slave trader. What seems clear is that, at best, the four people chosen seem to be almost random in their selection from the crowds who attended the event. At worst, the message is clear; people must be punished regardless of morality or accuracy.
Many hundreds of protesters participated in the toppling of the Colston statue, and then dragging it to the harbour before sending Colston to swim with the fishes – the same fate as that experienced by so many enslaved Africans on the transatlantic slaving ships, a business the slave-trader and former Tory MP Edward Colston, and others, got very rich from.
So who’s on really on trial here? People who care about ‘the law’? You’ll recall that this current government is composed of a bunch of ‘Vote Leave’ campaigners who also allegedly broke the law; did any of those end up facing custodial trials? Nope. The criminal investigation was mothballed and the powerful ensured that it fizzled out. The message is clear; there are rules for you but not for us.
In a virtual protest yesterday in support of the Colston 4, some racist asshole, behaved as a racist asshole does, and proved why the issues related to the statue are still as toxic today, and why it, along with racism in all its forms, should be at the bottom of the river:
As the video of my speech in solidarity with the #colston4 was playing, some racist hijacked the event and wrote the N-word in red across my face. Racists won’t stop us from the work of anti-racism. They will never stop me from knowing I’m a proud African man and no one’s N! ✊🏾
— Dr Shawn Sobers (@shawnsobers) January 25, 2021
This is what some (white) people, privileged in a system that protects them in so many ways, just don’t get – for many minorities in the UK and all over the globe, BLM and other movements at their core simply ask for people of colour not to be murdered! Not to be killed for the ‘crime’ of not being white in the wrong time and place, either by white supremacists or cops (and all too often both turn out to be one and the same);
Of course there were options for the statue, long hated by many, many Bristolians; an updated plaque to give it context? Drowned in a red-tape process. A mayor who wanted to make changes? Not to this historical wound, so it seems:
There has been a century long history of dissent and protest in Bristol over the celebration and memorialisation of Edward Colston. The prominence given to the statue of Colston in the City Centre has been a symbolic affront to many Bristolians. Despite protests and petitions over more than three decades, and particularly over the last five years, Bristol City Council (BCC) has largely failed to listen to people’s concerns over idolising a slave trader in the centre of our city.
Colston has fallen. As he should have many, many decades ago. But the powers-that-be in Bristol refused to do what was moral or right. In 2020 it happened anyway and now the State wants to make an example of some random people for what was moral and right. It is telling that all of the #Colston4 defendants are white – a quick glance at the hours of footage of the 7th June shows a very mixed race crowd involved in the statue events – as you will know if you were there. Is this a State attempt at racial divide & rule? Or is it that (for once) they are scared of the righteous anger of black people if one or more was taken to court for toppling a racist slave-trader? Either way We All did It! This is a chance for all people to unite, not just over the symbolism of the Court case & statue itself, but to go beyond symbols and challenge the structures of power that divide & rule us, structures that are historically based on the concept of white supremacy. Structures that today ensure institutional racism & inequality. Structures that today ensure a tiny minority control all the power & wealth in Britain. We need to go way beyond just kicking over the statues. Together. With a smile.
Four face a trial
For a man most vile
They went the extra mile
Leaving so many with a smile
— Lawrence Hoo (@LawrenceHoo) January 25, 2021