Sunday the 7th of June, a historical day for Bristol. The city saw thousands of protesters unite for a historical demonstration in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and to take a stand against George Floyd’s public killing. The day saw protestors tear down slave trader, Edward Colston’s statue and throw him in the river; ridding part of Bristol’s dark ties in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Even in the midst of a global pandemic the young organisers, with the oldest being 21, decided it was imperative to join the global protests sparked from George Floyd’s public killing and numerous other black people who have died due to police brutality. Some of the names include, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade from the US and Mark Dugan, Sheku Bayoh, Sean Rig and many more from the UK. “We have come here today to raise awareness of the inequalities and injustices black people face today” said Tiffany, one of the organisers. Starting the day with emotional speeches from young black women, men and elders, the large crowd of people from different backgrounds, ages and countries listened to their stories. Telling us they were called dirty when they were 6, were made to feel like they didn’t belong or the hurt and anger they feel seeing their brothers and sisters being killed because of the colour of their skin, made anyone, let alone a white person feel uneasy. “I brought my daughter here today to let her know that the world is not all nice,” Melanie, the mother of 6 year old daughter said. “One day Sarayah came home and said, I don’t like my hair, I don’t like my skin. It was very gut wrenching to hear that as a mother. I had to sit her down in front of the mirror and tell her she is beautiful and give her a self esteem talk. Isn’t it sad that this is still necessary in 2020?”
After the powerful voices were heard, there was an 8 minute and 46 seconds silence, the time for which a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd's neck. Many kneeled, many lied down but everyone remained silent, it was hard not to get emotional.
“We need a world where black people can exist and not have to constantly worry about their safety. We need a world where black people can leave the house and know they will return home safely,” said 23 year old Nasra from Bristol, a young black woman who spoke at the protest.
As the march began, the sounds of the St.Paul’s carnival drum band led the people towards Castle Park. Although almost everyone was wearing a face mask to help protect against Coronavirus, you could feel the smiles and solidarity in the air. With their mouths covered, it made everyone’s sign even more poignant. Couples who wanted to participate but were high risk, stood in the alleys of Park Street, shouting and showing solidarity to the cause. Families were there with their children, young boys and girls of all colours were walking together shouting, “No Justice, No Peace! No Justice, no peace!.”
By 14:30, the steady stream of people slowly gathered around Edward Colston’s, 125 year old bronze statue where people began to throw ropes. Protestors climbed up and put a lasso over the slave trader’s neck and then all together, they pulled. The statue came crashing down and in that moment the crowd became one. Everyone piled in, jumped on the statue, kicked him, spat on him and swore at him like they were finally able to get some justice for their ancestors. “I am a young black man, this is my first protest and it seems this is the only way my voice can be heard” said 18 year old Tino who was standing next to me when the historical moment happened. People around me were hugging each other, fists were in the air and sighs of relief and joy were heard. It felt like a moment of change.
After taking it all in, the crowd moved on towards Castle Park, elated to be part of such an empowering moment and ready to pass on the feeling to the oncoming protestors. Finally, thousands arrived in Castle Park where we heard from more black speakers and were captured by the emotion each of them showed and each made us feel yet again. “I went through a point in my life where I didn’t want to be black” said a young black woman with tears streaming down her eyes. “Thank you for coming. I am here because I matter,” said a young black boy, who couldn’t of been over 6 years old. Hearing these stories and seeing so many black people still fighting for the same cause their grandparents fought for, makes it crucial that non-black people use the brilliant resources out there to educate themselves on the history of racism and the struggle of being black today. “When we start listening to what black people say and let it hold power, we will get somewhere” said Nasra.
Later in the day, Edward Colston, was dragged several hundred meters to Bristol harbourside and dropped in the river, under a bridge named after famous Bristol slave, Pero. This was certainly a Sunday for Bristol to remember.