ANKARA – People of Bristol defending black lives matter, who witnessed the fall of the statue of the 17th century slave trader Edward Colston said, "The moment of the collapse of the statue was brilliant”, adding that the local government have kepts its ineffective position regarding the petitions demanding the removal of the statue over the years.
The cry of "I can't breathe” which became the last words of George Floyd while the police kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, has become a slogan of resistance of the oppressed people of colour around the world. As mass protests that spread across the US continue for two weeks, "Black Lives Matters-BLM" protests in the UK's south-western city Bristol created a massive echo among the global uprise against racism.
Among the cheerful applauses and slogans, the people of Bristol, a city whose slave trade history dates back to 1515, overthrew the statue of slave trader Edward Colston, who was a slave trader involved in the enslavement of 84,000 Africans, nearly 20 thousand of them died over the Atlantic.
As a result of the historical Bristol-BLM protests, officials of the city Antwerp in Belgium had to remove the statue of colonialist King Leopold, the symbol of persecution of the black lives. In Oxford, students continue their mass protests for the removal of the statue of the colonialist Cecil Rodos. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has ordered to review all the sculptures in the city that can be associated with slave trafficking, resulting in taking down the 18th century slave-owner Robert Milligan.
We reached the "Black Lives Matters" team, who organized the protest that the statue was taken down, and the anti-racist Bristoll people who came together in this action to listen their own story of witnessing these extra-ordinary moments, which literally overthrew a statue of Edward Colston.
‘WE MADE HISTORY’
As BLM campaigner Yvonne Maina defined the BLM movement in Bristol as “a group of strangers who all live in Bristol and happened to class our already planned protests,” she told, “So we merged as one and the outcome was insane. We’re super overwhelmed. We feel like we made history, the messages of support we’ve been getting has been amazing”.
Drawing attention to how Bristol people stood shoulder by shoulder in the protest day Maina told “It was like a unity, everyone one was together. The energy was so insane!”
THE VALUE OF A STATUE
Adressing to the relation between the heat climbed up targeting the statue and question of racism in UK, Maina told, “The UK is very racist. It may be subtle but it has ruined many lives and stolen opportunities. The reaction from the government has been horrendous, I’ve never see such outrage for the loss of black lives. They value a statue over black lives!”
Regarding her last message from the BLM-Bristol to Turkey and to the rest of the world, Maina shared the following call: “Fight for people’s lives around you, if you fight for corporations they will steal your rights as they don’t have your best interest at heart Fight for you rights, don’t fight for the right!”
‘WE ARE FINALLY BEING HEARD’
As he took his camera and went down on the streets on June 7 to document the protests, a photographer living in Bristol, Cameron James told us his witnessing of those moments. As we reached him through the photographs he took that day, Cameron expressed his feelings as he told, “When the statue of Edward Colston was torn down, a man who is famous for being a huge part of the slave trade especially in Bristol it was brilliant. Something beautiful and natural, an actual change, which is what the world has been crying out for so long, the black people have been cryting out for so long. We are finally being heard. Some people say it was great, some people say that it was bad, I think it was very emotional, it was very powerful. It was honestly so beautiful watching black and white people come together and see all the support for a cause.”
“I have grown up a mixed race, came to terms being a black man in society and the way we were looked at maybe when I was 17-18,” told Cameron regarding his own story as he added,“and it has been difficult”. As he explained his own reasons to support the cause he told, “Going to the protest was my way of standing in solidarity with the people who looked like me whether here or across the pond anywhere in the world who get marginalized simply because of some point in time we were deemed less than, you know, white people.”
‘HAD ENOUGH FOR HAVING A SLAVER’
The statue came down, which is the monument of the British slave trader Colston, who lived between 1636 and 1721, has been in the city center of Bristol since 1895. Over the years, residents of the city have campaigned and petitioned for the removal of this statue. “The city has been petitioning for that to be taken down for years. I guess the people of Bristol had enough for having a slaver who helped built the city of slave money,” told Cameron drawing attention to the debates regarding the statue’s removal. Resembling the tumbling of the statue to the fall of the empires, Cameron told “Typically emperors end when people decide to stop listening and do the thing at their best interest when people have enough. That’s what happened to Rome, happened to every major empire.”
Stating that the self-respect of the people increases together with the demonstrations Cameron shared his hopes as his final message: “I hope this actually becomes something to create a brighter future. Because that is what we are fighting for. We don’t want our kids to be fighting for the exact same thing.”
REMINDED PEOPLE OF COLOUR EVERYDAY OF RACISM
A fashion designer from Bristol, Alexandra King, drew the portrait of the atmoshpere of solidarity of the marches as she told “The march was filled with people of all ages, of all colours and religions” and she adds her feelings: “These people made me proud of being British for the first time in my life.” King emphasized what the statue had been representing for her fellow citizens as she explained, “The statue of slave trader Colston reminded people of colour everyday of systematic racism, their erasement from history and how you can literally get away with murder if you pay enough money. The local government had been disputing taking the statue down for years but they were ineffective. So the young people got the job done!”
A JOYOUS MOMENT
“It was a joyous moment. The young people climbed up, tied the statue in ropes and a group of people of all heritages together pulled the statue off its plinth. The police were standing by ensuring it was safely pulled down” told King describing the moments of the tumbling of the statue as she said,“The crown errupted in cheers of happiness and joy. There was nothing violent about it.”
MA/Eylül Deniz Yaşar