George Floyd death: Protesters tear down slave trader statue

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Media captionProtesters in Bristol pull down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston

A slave trader’s statue in Bristol has been torn down and thrown into the river during a second day of anti-racism protests across the UK.

It comes after largely peaceful demonstrations in central London on Saturday saw some clashes with police.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick urged protesters to find another way to make their views heard.

But thousands of protesters in London are protesting outside the US Embassy for a second day.

Protesters in Bristol used ropes to pull down the bronze statue of Edward Colston, a prominent 17th Century slave trader.

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Image caption Protesters knelt on the neck of the bronze statue of Colston

Colston was a member of the Royal African Company, which is believed to have transported about 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to the Americas.

On his death in 1721, he bequeathed his wealth to charities and his legacy can still be seen on Bristol’s streets, memorials and buildings.

After the statue fell to the ground, a protester posed with his knee on the statue’s neck – reminiscent of the video showing George Floyd, the black man who died while being restrained by a Minnesota police officer.

Mr Floyd’s death has become the rallying point for hundreds of ant-racist demonstrations across the globe.

The Colston statue was then dragged through the streets of Bristol and thrown into the river Avon. The empty plinth was then used as a stage for protesters to make speeches.

Historian Prof David Olusoga told BBC News that the statue should have been taken down long before.

He said: “Statues are about saying ‘this was a great man who did great things’. That is not true, he [Colston] was a slave trader and a murderer.”

As well as Sunday’s mass protest outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms, near Vauxhall, south London, other protests are also taking place in Manchester, Nottingham and Edinburgh.

Some 10,000 are believed to be protesting in Bristol. Many bore placards bearing George Floyd’s name alongside slogans such as Black Lives Matter and ‘I Can’t Breathe’.

Protesters appeared to be ignoring warnings from both the police commissioner and Health Secretary Matt Hancock not to congregate and risk spreading the coronavirus.

‘Proud of young people’

But Labour’s Lisa Nandy backed the demonstrations saying people “cannot be silent in the face of racism”.

The shadow foreign secretary said young people were “right to raise their voices” but urged demonstrators to take precautions and socially distance amid fears that the mass gatherings could prompt another spike in coronavirus cases.

Ms Nandy told the BBC’s Andrew Marr she was “proud” of young people demanding change following mass anti-racism protests across the UK on Saturday.

“I think it’s one of the most important things about living in a free society is that people can go out and protest,” she said.

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Image caption Protesters chant “Black Lives Matter” and “no justice, no peace”
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Image caption George Floyd’s death in May has sparked worldwide anti-racism protests
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Image caption Thousands of protesters have made their way to the US Embassy near Vauxhall, south London

Officers injured

Protests on Saturday were largely peaceful, but some clashes broke out between police and people gathered near Downing Street in the evening.

Missiles and fireworks were aimed at police and bikes were also thrown by some demonstrators.

The Metropolitan Police said 14 officers were injured, including a mounted officer who came off a horse as it bolted down Whitehall, with a further 13 hurt during demonstrations earlier in the week.

Dame Cressida said she was “appalled” by the scenes of unrest on Saturday night, which led to 14 arrests.

In a statement on Sunday, she added: “There is no place for violence in our city. Officers displayed extreme patience and professionalism throughout a long and difficult day, and I thank them for that.

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Image caption A police officer who fell from a horse was treated on Whitehall on Saturday evening

“I would urge protesters to please find another way to make your views heard which does not involve coming out on the streets of London, risking yourself, your families and officers as we continue to face this deadly virus.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that, with an estimated one in 1,000 people being infectious with the coronavirus, the protests risked spreading the disease, which would then risk lives.

He added: “There is a reason why we have laws in place, temporarily, to say that gatherings over six people should not happen and that’s because the virus spreads.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption People also gathered in Edinburgh, with some describing racism as a “pandemic”
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Image caption Hundreds took part in a protest on College Green in Bristol city centre

Prof John Edmunds, an member of the government’s scientific advisory group, Sage, said – even with reduced transmission outdoors – the large numbers protesting increased the risk of spread.

“If you have a crowd of a few thousand people you would expect some of those people to be infectious,” he said.

“And we know that the infection can be passed on by people who don’t have symptoms.”

Image copyright Reuters

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