Advertisement

Statue of Black protester is taken down in England after just one day

Statue called "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020"
Contractors remove the statue “A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020" in Bristol, England, on Thursday, July 16, 2020.
(Ben Birchall / PA via Associated Press)

Officials in the English city of Bristol on Thursday removed a statue of a Black Lives Matter activist that was installed on a plinth once occupied by a monument to a 17th-century slave trader.

Artist Marc Quinn created the resin and steel likeness of Jen Reid, a protester photographed standing on the plinth after demonstrators pulled down the statue of Edward Colston and dumped it in Bristol’s harbor June 7.

It was erected before dawn Wednesday without the approval of city authorities, but 24 hours later it was gone.

Bristol City Council said the sculpture “will be held at our museum for the artist to collect or donate to our collection.”

Advertisement

Colston was a trader who made a fortune transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas on Bristol-based ships. His money funded schools and charities in Bristol, which is 120 miles southwest of London.

The toppling of his statue was part of a worldwide reckoning with racism and slavery sparked by the death of a Black American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.

London’s mayor says statues of imperialist figures could be removed from the city’s streets after a statue of a slave trader was toppled in Bristol.

City authorities fished the Colston statue out of the harbor and say it will be placed in a museum, along with placards from the Black Lives Matter demonstration.

Advertisement

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said the decision about what replaces it must be made by the people of Bristol.

“This is not about taking down a statue of Jen, who is a very impressive woman,” Rees told the BBC. “This is about taking down a statue of a London-based artist who came and put it up without permission.”

The speed with which the statue was removed disappointed people who had heard about and wanted to see it. Activist Deasy Bamford alluded to the long-running dispute over the appropriateness of the Colston statue in expressing her exasperation over the new work’s quick exit.

“It took them 35 years to do nothing and 24 hours to do something,” Bamford said. “That says something. ... Hopefully that [new] statue will go somewhere in another iconic spot where everyone will see it [and] where there is a proper plaque which explains exactly why it was put up and it belongs to Bristol.”


Advertisement