'Fills me with pride': New statue replaces UK slave trader

Anti-racism demonstrators pulled down the 18-foot bronze likeness of Edward Colston and dumped it in the River Avon – sparking both delight and dismay in Britain and beyond. A statue of a Black Lives Matter protester now stands in its place. 

Matt Dunham/AP
Activists secretly erected "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020" by London sculptor Marc Quinn on the empty plinth of the toppled statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston, July 15, 2020, in Bristol, England. The mayor said it is up to the people if it will stay.

An artist has erected a statue of a Black Lives Matter protester atop the plinth in the English city of Bristol formerly occupied by a statue of a slave trader.

Marc Quinn created the life-size resin and steel likeness of Jen Reid, a protester photographed standing on the plinth after demonstrators pulled down the statue of Edward Colston and dumped it in Bristol's harbor on June 7.

The statue, titled "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid)" was erected before dawn on Wednesday without approval from city officials.

Ms. Reid, who came to inspect her likeness, said "it's something that fills me with pride."

"I think it's amazing," she said. "It looks like it belongs there. It looks like it's been there forever."

The Guardian reported: 

Arriving in two lorries before 5 a.m., a team of 10 people worked quickly to install the figure of [Ms.] Reid, who said she had been secretly working with [Mr.] Quinn on the idea for weeks. It came as a complete surprise to the authorities, who are yet to announce their plans for the location.

A cardboard placard reading “black lives still matter” was placed at the bottom of the plinth.

Shortly after the vehicles drove away, [Ms.] Reid stood in front of the statue with her fist in the air. “It’s just incredible,” she said. 

After meticulous planning to ensure the statue could be erected quickly enough to have it in place before officials arrived, the vehicles left the scene about 15 minutes after they got there. “I just knew it was going to happen,” said [Ms.] Reid. “They were so efficient.”

Mr. Colston was a 17th-century trader who made a fortune transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas on Bristol-based ships. His money funded schools and charities in Bristol, 120 miles southwest of London.

The toppling of his statue was part of a worldwide reckoning with racism and slavery sparked by the death of a Black American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.

Mr. Quinn, one of Britain's best-known sculptors, said Ms. Reid had "created the sculpture when she stood on the plinth and raised her arm in the air. Now we're crystallizing it."

The Guardian reported: 

The ambush sculpture is likely to reignite the debate over public statuary in the UK that began with the toppling of the Colston figure five weeks ago. On Wednesday morning police said they had had no complaints and it was “a matter for Bristol city council.”

Marvin Rees, the city’s mayor, issued a statement saying that “the future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol.” He said the sculpture was “the work and decision of a London-based artist,” and added: “It was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed.”

But he stopped short of saying that the council would act to remove it.

City authorities fished the Colston statue out of the harbor and say it will be placed in a museum, along with placards from the Black Lives Matter demonstration.

Mr. Rees cast doubt on whether the new statue would be allowed to stay.

"This will be critical to building a city that is home to those who are elated at the statue being pulled down, those who sympathize 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.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. Material from The Guardian was used in this report. 

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