Behind the Scenes: Big Emotion at Black Lives Matter Bristol Protest

itzel bristol protest

Black Lives Matter Bristol protest was emotional. There was a huge attendance that saw the toppling of a statue and recognition of a hard history.

BLM Bristol protest, sinking of statues

“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 is a delightful air of protest, nonconformity and unity. The grieving crowds are holding messages of support, liberation, hope and new beginnings.

The words ‘Black Lives Matter’ inundating the views. You see people from every colour uniting under the same sentiment. It is the first Bristol protest I attend where most participants are wearing masks and keeping a respectful distance. It is also the biggest Bristol protest I’ve ever attended.

Bristol is a place for activism, with anarchist social centres and community hubs. It has a slavery past that peaked between 1730 and 1745, when it became the leading slaving port.

BLM protest Bristol
BLM protest Bristol

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 84,000 people from their land and getting rid of the ones dying on route. Oh and then making a fortune by selling the rest on the market.

The protest made international headlines when the statue was toppled down in a crowd of 10,000 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.

Dismantling of statues in Bristol
Dismantling of statue of Edward Colston

The police proved to be with & for the people

The police didn’t stop it, they acknowledged the greater risk of arresting the protesters. So they didn’t, they protected a community that is 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. During the protest you could hear reggae music at a distance and I, smiling behind my mask, imagined previous marches of African people fighting for liberation.

Black music is an artistic demonstration of resistance, a voice that cannot be silenced. It’s a stand against inequality and a magnificent coded way to infiltrate the message into modern culture.

Remembering George Floyd
Remembering George Floyd

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 coloured identity, loud, strong, beautiful as only the chant of a thriving liberation protest can be.

Written by Itzel Rodríguez

Itzel Rodríguez is a writer specializing in-depth feature articles covering music festivals and travel to underreported places. She is also highly versed in writing about Afro-Caribbean culture, notably sound system culture.

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