Europe

Black Lives Matter statue removed just 24 hours after replacing slave trader monument

Contractors use ropes to remove A Surge of Power. Source: AAP

A statue of Black Lives Matter protester Jen Reid raising her fist in the Black Power salute has been removed from an empty plinth in Bristol where a monument to Edward Colston, a 17-century slave trader, once stood.

A statue of a Black Lives Matter protester that was erected in Bristol in place of a monument to 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston has been removed just 24 hours after it was put up. 

The new statue, titled A Surge of Power, depicted protester Jen Reid raising her fist on the empty plinth after the monument to Colston, which had stood in the city since 1895, was toppled during a rally last month. 

The sculpture was erected in secret before dawn on Wednesday but has since been removed by Bristol City Council.

B;ack Lives Matter protester Jen Reid poses in front of a statue of herself.
Black Lives Matter protester Jen Reid poses in front of the statue of herself.
EPA

In a tweet on Thursday, the council said the statue had been removed and would be held at a museum in the city for the artist to collect or donate.

A day earlier, Mayor Marvin Rees said the future of the empty plinth "must be decided by the people of Bristol".

"This will be critical to building a city that is home to those who are elated at the statue being pulled down, those who sympathise with its removal but are dismayed at how it happened and those who feel that in its removal, they’ve lost a piece of the Bristol they know and therefore themselves," he said in a statement.

"The sculpture that has been installed today was the work and decision of a London-based artist. It was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed."

The prominent British artist behind the life-sized work, Marc Quinn, said he was inspired to create the statue after seeing a photo of Ms Reid atop the empty plinth after the protest on 7 June. 

During the rally, protesters tore down the statue of Colston before throwing it in the River Avon. It has since been retrieved by authorities.

Protesters throw the statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour.
Protesters throw the statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour.
AAP

Ms Reid said she was on her way home from the protest when she felt "an overwhelming urge to climb onto the plinth ... driven to do it by the events that had taken place right before."

"Seeing the statue of Edward Colston being thrown into the river felt like a truly historical moment," she said in a statement on Wednesday. She described her involvement in the creation of the black resin and steel statue as "making a stand for my mother, for my daughter, for black people like me".

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The toppling of the Colston statue appeared to inspire similar actions all over the globe, with a number of monuments to colonial figures removed or vandalised in the weeks after.

In one instance, a statue of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill was boarded up in London amid fears it would be damaged during Black Lives Matter protests.

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