The toppling of Colston’s Statue represents a watershed moment in our city’s history. In recent years the statue, which sat in Central Ward, had been the focus of several community campaigns and petitions to either move the statue or remove it completely. The Bristol Liberal Democrats believe it is wrong for Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees to take credit over this issue, while his term has been marked by silence and inactivity with regards to it up to now.
Bristol Central Ward bares many marks from Bristol’s Slavery legacy. From the former docks where human cargo was traded to the Seven Stars Inn where abolitionists plotted the trade’s demise. Compared to other Wards in Bristol a disproportionately high number of street names in Central are named after slaves and slave traders. It is the position of Bristol Liberal Democrats that if we are to avoid unilateral public actions such as the forcible removal of Colston’s Statue, we as a city need to address this broad question with an open and inclusive political process that takes account
The Bristol Liberal Democrats have been vocal in advocating a Citizens Assembly, to draw on a broad spectrum of Bristolian citizen’s opinions and expertise to address this issue. However, after initially hopeful responses from Bristol Liberal Democrat Councillors, the Mayor released plans for a commission that seems to have advocated the use of an largely academic and political panel over citizens engagement.
Of course, academic expertise on this subject is needed and welcome. We are pleased to see the inclusion of David Olusoga, a local historian who has done much through his work in broadcasting to broaden the discussion of the slavery of legacy locally and nationally. However shunning community engagement comes with potentially great costs. Without a broad participation by Bristolians in this process, they may lose faith in it and whatever conclusions it may reach.