Statue of BLM protester replaces toppled figure of 17th-century English slave trader

Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY

A resin-and-steel statue of a Black Lives Matter protester was surreptitiously placed early Wednesday atop a pedestal in the English city of Bristol previously occupied by the statue of a 17th-century slave trader named Edward Colston.

The sculpture of protester Jen Reid was made by Marc Quinn, an artist who said he was inspired to create the piece after seeing a photograph of Reid with her fist raised during protests in the city about 120 miles southwest of London. 

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Quinn, a well-known artist in Britain, said in a statement on his website that the statue was erected without formal consent from authorities in Bristol.

He said he and Reid hoped the piece – titled "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020" – would be a "permanent solution to what should be there. ... We want to keep highlighting the unacceptable problem of institutionalized and systemic racism that everyone has a duty to face up to. ... It's time for direct action now."

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Reid said she collaborated with Quinn on the work because it represented "making a stand for my mother, for my daughter, for Black people like me. It’s about Black children seeing it up there. It’s something to feel proud of, to have a sense of belonging, because we actually do belong here and we’re not going anywhere."

The statue of Colston was toppled and thrown into Bristol's harbor by anti-racism protesters last month as part of a worldwide reckoning after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. 

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Black Lives Matter protester Jen Reid poses for a photograph in front of a sculpture of herself by artist Marc Quinn in Bristol, England, on July 15.

The 18-foot-high bronze statue of Colston had stood on Colston Avenue in Bristol since 1895. Colston traded textiles and wool and used some of the proceeds to build schools, churches and almshouses. This was enabled by his selling enslaved people in the Caribbean and the Americas from 1672 to 1689. His statue has long divided residents.

In a statement, Marvin Rees, Bristol's mayor, said, "What is installed on (the pedestal) must be decided by the people of Bristol." He said a process had been established to "manage (this) journey."

Marc Quinn sculpted a statue titled "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020."

Black Lives Matter murals have been painted in streets in cities across the USA amid protests over racial inequality and calls for police overhauls after Floyd's death. President Donald Trump called a mural painted in front of Trump Tower in New York City a "symbol of hate." The president tweeted that the mural would be "denigrating" to what he described as a "luxury" avenue.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Statue of slave trader Edward Colston replaced with BLM protester

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