Edward Colston statue: Bristol's mayor criticises minister's comments

image copyrightPA Media
image captionProtesters knelt on the neck of the bronze statue of Colston

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has accused a government minister of inflaming debate after he said statues could be given formal planning protection.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick announced at the weekend the government wants new laws to protect them across England.

Writing in The Sunday Telegrah, he said they must not be taken down "on a whim or at the behest of a baying mob".

Bristol's statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down last June.

Mr Jenrick did not name Bristol directly but his article was widely seen as a reference to what had happened in the city.

He criticised "flash mobs", "town hall militants" and "woke worthies" who he claimed were happy to override due process.

Mr Rees accused Mr Jenrick of attempting to foster an "adversarial culture", while inaccurately depicting the situation in Bristol.

"We get enough of that anyway - we don't need that kind of social media language", he said.

media captionProtesters in Bristol pull down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston

Mr Rees said although the statue was "pulled down in circumstances [he] could not endorse", Mr Jenrick's comments were "nowhere near the approach" the city has taken.

The council set up a new commission examining Bristol's historical links with slavery, which met for the first time in September.

Mr Rees added: "We have a cultural board and will go on a very patient and inclusive conversation with Bristol about who we are."

Four people charged with criminal damage over the toppling of the statue are set to appear in court next week.

A statue of a Black Lives Matter protester was placed on the empty plinth without permission in July and was removed shortly afterwards.

The plinth remains vacant and Mr Rees has previously said it will be up to the city's people to decide what will replace Colston's statue.

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