The bronze statue stood in the city for more than 100 years before it was pulled down by angry protesters during a wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the country last summer — after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Demonstrators used rope to tug the statue from its stone plinth and their bare hands to roll it through the streets and into the murky waters of a nearby harbor as onlookers cheered. Others chanted “Black Lives Matter,” in solidarity with those across the Atlantic dealing with issues of police brutality, systemic racism and complex histories.
While the statue was originally erected to honor the life of the 17th-century lawmaker and philanthropist who supported charities and schools, much of his wealth was derived from the trade of enslaved people.
According to the museum, Colston played a key role in the transportation of an estimated 84,000 enslaved adults and children, thousands of whom died as they made the journey.
“I can’t and won’t pretend the statue of a slave trader in a city I was born and grew up in wasn’t an affront to me and people like me,” Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees told the BBC at the time, as an estimated 10,000 people gathered in the city to call for racial equality.
Days after it landed in the harbor with a heavy splash, the statue was retrieved from the waters by council officials who transported it by boat and placed it in storage.
As of today, the statue can be found displayed at the city’s M Shed museum as part of a display titled “The Colston statue: What next?” But the memorial no longer towers above those who come close to it, the battered bronze statue now lies on its back, protected by a shield.
Jon Finch, head of Culture and Heritage for Bristol City Council, told Channel 4 News that officials are seeking opinions about what should be done with the statue after its time on display at the museum comes to an end.
Those taking part in the survey are asked how they feel about the statue being pulled down June 7, and what should be done with its empty stone plinth, which remains at the site where the statue stood.
“Help shape the future,” the voluntary questionnaire reads. “All voices will be heard.”
Also on display are signs from the protests which read: “racism is a pandemic too,” and “we gotta change our world.”
Another handwritten card includes the final words of Floyd, who repeatedly told officers “I can’t breathe,” before he died. Viral video footage taken at the scene shows former police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.