Banksy creates T-shirt to help statue-toppling defendants

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A person inside Rough Trade in Bristol, England, Saturday Dec. 11, 2021, holds up a T-shirt designed by street artist Banksy, being sold to support four people facing trial accused of criminal damage in relation to the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston. The anonymous artist posted on Instagram pictures of limited edition grey souvenir T-shirts which will go on sale on Saturday in Bristol. The shirts have a picture of Colston's empty plinth with a rope hanging off, with debris and a discarded sign nearby. (Jacob King/PA via AP)

LONDON – Hundreds of people lined up Saturday in the English city of Bristol to get the latest work by elusive street artist Banksy — a T-shirt created to help four defendants charged over the toppling of a local statue of a slave trader.

The gray shirt features the word Bristol above the empty plinth on which the statue of 17th-century slave merchant Edward Colston long stood, with a rope hanging from it and debris scattered around.

Anti-racism demonstrators pulled down the statue and and dumped it in Bristol harbor in June 2020 amid global protests sparked by the police killing of a Black American man, George Floyd.

Four people have been charged with criminal damage over the statue’s felling and are going on trial next week.

“I’ve made some souvenir shirts to mark the occasion,” Banksy said on social media Friday. “Available from various outlets in the city from tomorrow. All proceeds to the defendants so they can go for a pint.”

Banksy said the T-shirts cost 25 pounds ($33) and are limited to one per customer.

Banksy’s identity has never been confirmed, but he began his career spray-painting walls and bridges in Bristol, a port city in southwest England. Some of his works have sold for millions of dollars at auction.

Colston made a fortune transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas on Bristol-based ships. He was a major benefactor to Bristol, with streets and institutions named for him — some of which have been renamed since the statue-felling sparked a debate about racism and historical commemoration.

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.


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