Toppling of Bristol’s Colston statue continues to spark debate in the US

The toppling of Bristol’s Edward Colston statue has led to ongoing debate in the United States about whether monuments stateside “truly represent” its people.

Media commentator Kelly Hyman said the removal of the slave trader’s statue was “closely watched” in the United States.

The Australian-American media personality told the BBC that what took place in Bristol “became a political issue in the states too”.

READ MORE: Marvin Rees compares Park Street closure plan to Colston statue

According to the attorney and political commentator, the then-President Donald Trump’s condemnation only intensified the debate.

“We needed to have these discussions,” said Ms Hyman.

The Colston statue was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter march on June 7, 2020. The statue, which had been in place since 1895, had been subject to a petition to remove it due to his role as a slave trader.

The action led to several institutions across the city with Colston in their title to change their names to what has become known as the ‘de-Colstonification’ of Bristol.

Ms Hyman told the BBC that “what happened in Bristol became a political issue in the states too”.

“[Mr] Trump came down and promised to protect the statues. He said we shouldn’t be tearing these down because they are honouring our heritage.”

According to the BBC, Mr Trump tweeted that anyone who “vandalises or destroys any monument, statue or other such federal property” would be arrested and jailed for up to 10 years.

Though the warning was ignored and many statues were either removed or vandalised over several months.

“In the US there’s a whole argument about free speech. But there’s also an argument about whether they [statues] truly represent the people.

“I don’t believe that we should have statues of people who suppressed minorities. That doesn’t represent what a true democracy is,” added Ms Hyman.

Marvin Rees
(Image: Bristol Post)

In June 2020, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees issued a statement following the Black Lives Matter march which read: “I know the removal of the Colston Statue will divide opinion, as the statue itself has done for many years.

“However it’s important to listen to those who found the statue to represent an affront to humanity and make the legacy of today (June 7) about the future of our city, tackling racism and inequality.

“I call on everyone to challenge racism and inequality in every corner of our city and wherever we see it.”

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said the toppling of Edward Colston was “criminal damage” .

Mr Javid, who grew up on Easton’s Stapleton Road, tweeted: “I detest how Edward Colston profited from the slave trade.

“But, THIS IS NOT OK. If Bristolians want to remove a monument it should be done democratically – not by criminal damage.”

Where is the Edward Colston Statue now?

After the bronze memorial to the 17th Century slave merchant was hauled down, it was placed on display at Bristol’s M-shed exhibition museum alongside placards from the protest.

Residents were then invited to take part in a survey to decide its future.

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