10 Jun Behind The Scenes: Bristol BLM Protests
“We have a statue of someone who made their money by throwing our people into the water… and now he’s at the bottom of the water.”
– Marvin Rees, elected Mayor of Bristol
There was a delightful air of protest, nonconformity and unity. The grieving crowds were holding messages of support, liberation, hope and new beginnings.
The words ‘Black Life Matters’ were inundating the views. You could see people from every color uniting under the same sentiment. It was the first protest I had attended where most participants were wearing masks and keeping a respectful distant. It was also the biggest protest I’d ever attended in Bristol.
Bristol is a place for activism, with anarchist social centers and community hubs. It has a slavery past that peaked between 1730 and 1745, when it became the leading slaving port.
The city has a strong sense of community
They celebrate a beloved multiculturalism but they don’t celebrate slave trading. There previously had been petitions to
remove the statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader, the dude was responsible of stealing around 84 k people from their land, getting rid of the ones dying on route by choking them in the sea, then making a fortune by selling the rest on the market along with other merchandise.
The protest made international headlines because the statue was tippled down in a crowd of 10 k people cheering through masks, kneeling on the neck of the statue for 8 minutes in silence;
It felt like a long time, it felt like we were writing history, our Bristol proud script. The statue was dragged through the harbourside and finally thrown at the canal.
The police proved to be with and for the people
They didn’t stop it, they acknowledge the greater risk if they had arrested the protesters, so they didn’t, they protected a community that was consciously amending damages, a town proud of its diversity, emancipating a symbolic slavery no longer acceptable.
The mayor of Bristol released a statement understanding the significance of the protest and supporting its core values. I remember during the protest listening to reggae music at a distance and smiling behind my mask – imagining previous marches of African people fighting for liberation.
Black music is an artistic demonstration of resistance, a voice not to be silenced, a stand against inequality and a magnificent coded way to infiltrate the message into modern culture.
Black music preserves its own core history
It tells us stories of oppression and survival, it gets to our veins, it whispers poems until we dance obediently to a melody of disobedience. Bristol celebrates black music and history, there’s no possible way the city would dismiss its black cultural roots.
Bristol stands proud for its colored identity, loud, strong, beautiful as only the chant of a thriving liberation protest can be.