Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said it was “completely wrong” for protesters to bring down a Bristol statue of a slave trader yesterday, but that the ornament should have been brought down lawfully instead.
Starmer said the statue of Edward Colston had “no place in 21st century Britain”, but that the statue “should have been brought down properly with consent and put I would say in a museum”.
Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol pulled down the statue yesterday afternoon, before throwing it in the River Avon.
Demonstrators were seen stomping on the statue and kneeling on its neck after it was pulled down.
Colston was a merchant, philanthropist and slave trader, who transported almost 100,000 people from Africa to the Caribbean and Americas in the 17th century.
He donated large portions of his wealth to charitable causes in Bristol, helping set up schools and hospitals.
He was also elected to parliament as a Tory MP for Bristol in 1710.
The removal of his statue, which will not be replaced, has drawn mixed reactions from across the country.
“It was completely wrong to pull a statuedown like that, but stepping back that statue should have been taken down a long time ago,” Starmer said.
“You can’t in 21st Century Britain have a slaver on a statue.
“He should not be in a statue in Bristol or anywhere else, he should be in a museum because we need to understand this, but that should have been taken down a long time ago.”
Yesterday’s actions were a part of the wider protests that were sparked from the death of George Floyd in the US two weeks ago.
Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer by kneeling on his neck.
Thousands turned up at protests in London over the weekend, with some resorting to violence against police officers and acts of vandalism.
Projectiles were thrown at police officers and police horses, Winston Churchill’s statue outside parliament was defaced and one man tried to burn the British flag at the Cenotaph.
Twenty-seven police officers were also injured.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit out at the small minority of people from the demonstrations that resorted to violence.
“People have a right to protest peacefully and while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police,” he said.
“These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery – and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve.
“Those responsible will be held to account.”