LONDON – Officials in the English city of Bristol on Thursday removed a statue of a Black Lives Matter activist that was installed barely 24 hours earlier on a pedestal once occupied by a monument to a 17th-century slave trader.
Artist Marc Quinn created the resin and steel likeness of Jen Reid, a protester photographed standing with a raised fist on the pedestal after demonstrators pulled down the statue of merchant Edward Colston and dumped in Bristol’s harbor on June 7.
The statue of Reid was erected before dawn on Wednesday without the approval of city authorities and removed by those same authorities early Thursday, carted away in a waste-removal truck.
Bristol City Council said the sculpture "will be held at our museum for the artist to collect or donate to our collection.”
Colston was a 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 (195 kilometers) 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.
From Confederate monuments in the United States to statues of British slave traders, memorials erected in honor of historical figures have become a global focus of protests — and removal, both authorized and unauthorized.
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.
Mayor Marvin Rees, who is the first Black leader of Bristol, said the decision about what replaces the statue of native son Colston must be made by the people of the city, not an artist from London.
“There were people in Bristol who were elated that Colston got pulled down.,” he said. "There were some people who were sympathetic that the Colston statue got pulled down but were dismayed by the way it happened. There were people who feel they have lost a bit of themselves in the statue being pulled down.
“None of those people are going anywhere. We all still live in the city together and we have to find a way of leading Bristol that actually shows everyone that they are respected even if they don’t get what they want.”
Bristol Council said officials would speak to Quinn about what should happen to his artwork. He has said that if it is sold, profits will be donated to educational charities chosen by Reid.
The speed with which events transpired disappointed people who had heard about the new statue and wanted to see it. Activist Deasy Bamford alluded to a decades-long dispute over the presence of the Colston statue in expressing her exasperation over the new work's quick exit.
“It took them 35 years to do nothing and 24 hours to do something,. That says something,'' Bamford said. “However, I understand that they are playing a role, so hopefully that statue will go somewhere in another iconic spot where everyone will see it where there is a proper plaque which explains exactly why it was put up and it belongs to Bristol.''
Jill Lawless in London contributed to this story.