Statue of black British protester removed from plinth in Bristol

Artist Marc Quinn made the likeness of Jen Reid, a protester who stood on the plinth after a statue of Bristol merchant and slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down

Workers remove A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020 by artist Marc Quinn, which had been installed on the site of the fallen statue of the slave trader Edward Colston, in Bristol, UK, on July 16, 2020. The sculpture was installed without the knowledge or consent of Bristol City Council and was removed after 24 hours. AP 
Workers remove A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020 by artist Marc Quinn, which had been installed on the site of the fallen statue of the slave trader Edward Colston, in Bristol, UK, on July 16, 2020. The sculpture was installed without the knowledge or consent of Bristol City Council and was removed after 24 hours. AP 

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

London 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, a wealthy merchant involved in the slave trade, and dumped it in Bristol’s harbour last month. Erected before dawn on Wednesday without the approval of city authorities, it was gone 24 hours later.

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

The statue of Edward Colston is thrown into Bristol harbour by protesters after they pulled it down from its plinth and pushed into the docks during Black Lives Matters protests in June. Reuters
The statue of Edward Colston is thrown into Bristol harbour by protesters after they pulled it down from its plinth and pushed into the docks during Black Lives Matters protests in June. Reuters

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 about 200 kilometres south-west of London.

The toppling of his statue on June 7 was part of a worldwide reckoning with racism and slavery sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black American man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis in May.

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

The Mayor of Bristol, 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,” Mr 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 events transpired disappointed people who had heard about the new statue and wanted to see it. One activist, Deasy Bamford, alluded to the long dispute over the presence of the Colston statue in expressing her concern over the new work's quick exit.

“It took them 35 years to do nothing and 24 hours to do something,'' Ms Bamford said. “That says something.

"However I understand that they are playing a role so hopefully that statue will go somewhere in another iconic spot where everyone will see it, where there is a proper plaque which explains exactly why it was put up and it belongs to Bristol.''

Published: July 16, 2020 05:25 PM

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