Edward Colston helped to oversee the transportation into slavery of an estimated 84,000 Africans, of whom, it is believed, around 19,000 died on the voyage. Their bodies were thrown into the sea. Olosuga comments: "The historical symmetry of this moment is poetic. A bronze effigy of an infamous and prolific slave trader dragged through the streets of a city built on the wealth of that trade, and then dumped, like the victims of the Middle Passage, into the water. Colston lies at the bottom of a harbour in which the ships of the triangular slave trade once moored, by the dockside on to which their cargoes were unloaded. The crowd who saw to it that Colston fell were of all races, but some were the descendants of the enslaved black and brown Bristolians whose ancestors were chained to the decks of Colston’s ships."
Olosuga goes on to condemn the "overt and shameless, but not unique" long defence of Colston's reputation which frustrated a number of campaigns to have the statue peacefully removed, or at least to have a plaque on it which told his whole story. "Today is the first full day since 1895 on which the effigy of a mass murderer does not cast its shadow over Bristol’s city centre. Those who lament the dawning of this day, and who are appalled by what happened on Sunday, need to ask themselves some difficult questions. Do they honestly believe that Bristol was a better place yesterday because the figure of a slave trader stood at its centre? Are they genuinely unable – even now – to understand why those descended from Colston’s victims have always regarded his statue as an outrage and for decades pleaded for its removal?
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