U.K. Anti-Racism Protests Gain Momentum as Slave Trader Statue Toppled

Tim Dams
·6-min read

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Thousands of people attended anti-racism protests in the U.K. over the weekend, with gatherings in cities such as London, Bristol, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

On Sunday, protesters in Bristol used ropes to pull down the bronze statue of Edward Colston — a prominent 17th-Century slave trader. Colston was a member of the Royal African Company, which transported about 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to the Americas.

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After the statue was toppled, a protester was pictured with his knee on the figure’s neck — reminiscent of the video showing George Floyd being restrained by a Minnesota police officer. The statue, which has been a source of controversy in Bristol for years, was later dragged through the streets by protesters, and thrown into the harbor.

The pulling down of the statue has sparked widespread debate in the U.K. and around the world.

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees, Europe’s first Black city mayor, told BBC Radio Bristol this morning: “I can’t and won’t pretend the statue of a slave trader in a city I was born and grew up [in] wasn’t an affront to me and people like me.

“I think circumstances came to a head at this particular moment in time and people felt the need to take the statue down.”

Rapper, actor and filmmaker Ice Cube retweeted images of the statue ending up in the harbor with the words “One hood”.

However, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned the toppling of the statue as “a completely unacceptable act” and called on the police to take action against those involved.

Patel told the BBC: “I think that is utterly disgraceful. That speaks to the acts of public disorder that actually have become a distraction from the cause people are actually protesting about.”

Elsewhere, IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua also took part in an anti-racism march in his hometown of Watford on Saturday. Joshua said during his speech: “We can no longer sit back and remain silent on these senseless, unlawful killings and sly racism on another human being — based on what? Only their skin color.”

“Star Wars” actor John Boyega also addressed the response to his powerful Black Lives Matter protest speech in London last week, where he had expressed fears for his career after speaking out.

View this post on Instagram

I want to thank you all for the love and support you have shared over the last few days, although nothing I have done is for praise, or is truly even enough, in the grand scheme of things. This is an intense time for our community, and the most important thing is for us to maintain momentum and not lose sight of how critical it is to pursue long term solutions and commitments, for the sake of our generation, and the next. Our individual pursuits of success and belonging remain, but now more than ever, it’s important to use this movement as fuel to inspire new ways of thinking, building, and growing, together. I believe any great movement starts with a renewal of the mind. I know you’re all thinking, what’s next? Where do we go from here? Because I’m thinking the same shit! Conversations about black businesses, ownership and support are happening, and I will continue to have these conversations with the full intention of birthing ideas that are sustainable and tangible. Let’s increase our knowledge! I’m excited to see an awakening happening in all of us! I’ll continue to use my platform to fight against the injustices and inequalities in our community, no matter what. Nonetheless, one man can’t do it alone – I need you, and we need each other! We need everyone, across industry’s, soci-economic backgrounds, countries, to unite with a shared goal of REAL change. Before the pandemic hit, I visited a few schools in Southwark, to share my journey and to truly understand the minds and needs of our next generation. It was eye opening and inspiring to say the least, and I look forward to continuing this work, and contributing more, once it is safe to do so. I urge the black men of our community, my peers, to do the same. Connecting with our kids and motivating them towards a future that is stronger and brighter, is urgent, and necessary. In the meantime, let’s work on clearing the runway for them, so they can take off, and fly. Love everyone, and stay safe x

A post shared by John Boyega (@johnboyega) on Jun 7, 2020 at 3:17am PDT

In an Instagram post, Boyega said: “I want to thank you all for the love and support you have shared over the last few days, although nothing I have done is for praise, or is truly even enough, in the grand scheme of things.

“This is an intense time for our community, and the most important thing is for us to maintain momentum and not lose sight of how critical it is to pursue long-term solutions and commitments, for the sake of our generation, and the next.”

Filmmakers began tweeting their support for Boyega after “BlacKkKlansman” producer Matthew A Cherry shared a post stating: “I would work with John Boyega and I urge other Non-Black creators to affirm that they have his back as well.”

Jordan Peele, “Black Mirror’s” Charlie Brooker, “His Dark Materials” writer Jack Thorne, “Catastrophe’s” Rob Delaney, “Hamilton’s” Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Baby Driver’s” Edgar Wright, “Booksmart’s” Olivia Wilde, “Charlie’s Angels'” Elizabeth Banks and “Bridesmaids'” Paul Feig were among the creatives who said they would be honored to work with Boyega.

“I would crawl through a barrel of broken glass to have John Boyega even so much as *glance* at one of my scripts,” tweeted Brooker.

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