Slave trader’s statue torn down in Bristol as UK anti-racism protests continue

Boris Johnson condemns attacks on police saying demonstrations ‘subverted by thuggery’

Anti-racism protesters have toppled the bronze statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol city centre. Video: Reuters

Tens of thousands took to the streets of London on Sunday, rallying for a second day running to condemn police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some wearing face masks to protect against Covid-19 bearing the slogan "racism is a virus".

Protests continued in other cities across the UK, including Bristol, where a statue of 17th-century merchant and slave trader Edward Colston was torn down and thrown into the city's harbour.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters had gathered in central London in a demonstration that was peaceful but that ended with small numbers of people clashing with mounted police near prime minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street residence.

London police chief Cressida Dick said 27 officers had been injured in “shocking and completely unacceptable” assaults during anti-racism protests in central London this week, including 14 on Saturday. Two were seriously hurt and an officer who fell from her horse underwent surgery in hospital.


Mr Johnson said the anti-racism demonstrations had been “subverted by thuggery”.

“People have a right to protest peacefully & while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police,” the prime minister tweeted.

“These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery – and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve.Those responsible will be held to account.”

Both Ms Dick and health secretary Matt Hancock urged protesters not to gather in London again on Sunday, warning they risked spreading coronavirus. But demonstrators ignored this to pack the road outside the US embassy on the south bank of the river Thames. Journalists on the scene estimated the crowds as numbering in the tens of thousands.

After an hour, the protesters began to march across the river in the direction of parliament, pausing on the bridge to take the knee and chant “justice, now”. Some gathered in Parliament Square while others massed outside Downing Street.

"Now is the time: we need to do something. We have become so complacent in the UK but the racism that killed George Floyd was born in the UK in terms of colonialism and white supremacy," said Hermione Lake (28), who was holding a sign saying "white silence = violence".

“We need to completely gut the system ... We need massive reform, massive change,” she said.

There have been demonstrations around the world over police treatment of ethnic minorities, sparked by the death of Mr Floyd, a black American, on May 25th in Minneapolis. A white police officer detaining him knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Sunday’s London protest was peaceful, with people clapping, taking to one knee, waving placards and chanting “George Floyd” and “the UK is not innocent”.

Slave trader

Footage posted on social media showed anti-racism demonstrators in Bristol in western England cheering as they tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader.

The bronze memorial, which had stood in Colston Avenue in Bristol city centre since 1895, was torn down after crowds left College Green as part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration. It had been the subject of an 11,000-strong petition to have it removed.

Images showed crowds rushing to stamp on the statue before it was rolled along the road and pushed into the harbour. A police spokesman said later an investigation had been opened to identify a small group of people “who clearly committed an act of criminal damage” .

Police said 29 people were arrested during Saturday’s protest in London for offences including violent disorder and assault on emergency service workers.

Pauline Nandoo (60), said she had been protesting about racism since the 1970s and the images of violence at the end of Saturday’s protest had not deterred her.

“There’s children of all ages and older adults here,” said Ms Nandoo, who was with her brother and 13-year-old daughter. “They are going to experience what we have experienced and we have to try to make that not happen.” – Reuters/PA