The major of Bristol has described to toppling of the statue of a slave trader an “iconic moment.” Mayor Marvin Rees, the UK’s first directly elected black mayor, described the figure of Edward Colston, which was pulled down by Black Lives Matter protesters on Sunday, as a “personal affront”. However, the Labour mayor said he could not condone criminal damage.
His position on the matter comes on the heels of the Home Secretary Priti Patel who called the act “utterly disgraceful” and demanded for a full investigation. Also this morning the Policing Minister Kit Malthouse doubled down, saying: “I hope prosecutions will follow.”
According to Rees, it was an “iconic moment” that has drawn attention from people across the planet but added: “My concern though is that racism is tackled not just by pulling down statues in symbolic moments – it’s stitched into the system. It’s the systematic exclusion of people from opportunity and power.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am of Jamaican heritage and I cannot pretend any real sense of loss for the statue. I cannot pretend it was anything other than a personal affront to me to have it in the middle of Bristol – the city in which I grew up,” adding that- “That’s up to the criminal justice system,” when asked if anyone should be charged with criminal damage, he said: He said people had been asking for the statue to be removed for a long time, adding: “It’s something I would have liked to have seen.
“If I just pitch up and start tearing down all memorials to slavery there would be another debate and I would be on the receiving end. I don’t have the latitude to operate like that that other people would.”