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Toppling of Colston statue not ‘anti-white’, Bristol mayor says in documentary

The toppled statue of Edward Colston (Ben Birchall/PA)
The toppled statue of Edward Colston (Ben Birchall/PA)

The topping of the statue of Edward Colston was not “anti-white”, the mayor of Bristol has said in a new documentary.

Marvin Rees has featured in a new BBC programme exploring the response to the topping of the 17th century slave trader in the city.

The bronze monument to the 17th century slave trader was pulled down from its plinth during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7 last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the US.

Marvin Rees (Sam Gibson Photography/PA)

Statue Wars: One Summer In Bristol will air on BBC Two on Friday.

The programme goes “behind the scenes” with the city’s mayor Marvin Rees and documents the weeks that followed the toppling of the statue, the BBC said in a statement.

In a clip released ahead of the documentary airing on television, Mr Rees is seen reacting to an act of vandalism on the grave of Scipio Africanus, an enslaved African man who lived in Bristol in the 18th century, in the wake of Colston’s statue being pulled down.

In it, he said: “The pulling down of Colston’s statue was not an anti-white, oppressive move.

“It was about toppling someone who exploited other people.”

He labelled the attack on the grave as “overtly racist”.

‘The Colston statue: What next?’
(Ben Birchall/PA)

Patrick Holland, BBC director of factual, said: “This film is the inside story of a rolling series of events that gripped the nation’s attention following the toppling of the Edward Colston statue last June.

“Seeing the inner workings of the mayor’s office at Bristol’s City Hall across last summer offers a unique insight into those events, into the city and Marvin Rees himself.”

Historian and broadcaster David Olusoga, co-founder of Uplands Television, which produced the programme, said: “This is a film about Bristol that was made in Bristol by people who live in the city and understand its complexities, spirit and divisions.

“We at Uplands TV are proud of this film and proud to have had the chance to tell the story of Bristol in these turbulent times.”

The toppled statue of Colston has gone on public display in an exhibition in Bristol.

Statue Wars: One Summer In Bristol airs on BBC Two on Thursday at 9pm.

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