The statue of protester Jen Reid was unveiled in the city on Wednesday, replacing the spot of a statue depicting a 17th-century trader of enslaved people

By Joelle Goldstein
July 16, 2020 11:46 AM
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Jen Reid statue
Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images

The statue of Black Lives Matter protester Jen Reid — which was unveiled in Bristol, England, in the place of a toppled statue depicting a 17th-century trader of enslaved people — was removed after 25 hours.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees and the Bristol City Council announced that they had taken down the Jen Reid statue on Wednesday morning, claiming that the decision was rooted in the "need for a democratic process where the people of Bristol decide the future of the plinth."

Created by British sculptor Marc Quinn, the statue was based on a photograph of Reid in the same position. The image was captured as she headed home from protests on June 7, when the Edward Colston statue came down. The Reid statue filled the spot left vacant after demonstrators toppled a statue of Colston and dumped it into the River Avon.

In a statement on the City Council's website, Rees said, "The future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol."

Jen Reid statue
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"This will be critical to building a city that is home to those who are elated at the statue being pulled down, those who sympathise with its removal but are dismayed at how it happened and those who feel that in its removal, they’ve lost a piece of the Bristol they know and therefore themselves," he continued.

The mayor went on to note that the city "needs change" but that the change must come at "a pace that brings people with us" and takes Bristol "far."

"The art of building our city will be finding a way to live with our difference so that even where people do not get what they want, they know they live in a city that is their one and respects them," he said. "The sculpture that has been installed today was the work and decision of a London based artist. It was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed."

Rees finished his statement by vowing to use the history commission that was established to tell the "full city history," including the role of Black people, women, the working class, trade unions and children.

"We will be in a better position to understand who we are, how we got here and who we wish to honour," he explained. "As the commission shares this information, the city will decide on city memorials and the future of the plinth."

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The statue of Colston was pulled down with rope by demonstrators, who then tossed it into Bristol’s harbor in a display of solidarity with Black Lives Matters protesters in the United States.

He was a trader of enslaved people responsible for trafficking some 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to North America through the Royal African Company, according to the BBC.

Colston died in 1721, though he’s remained a source of controversy over the years, as many of Bristol’s streets, memorials and buildings still bear his name. The since-toppled statue was reportedly erected in 1895.

The Jen Reid statue – which is made of black resin and titled “A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020” — was not expected to stay on the plinth permanently, but its creators hoped that it would bring attention to the issues of systemic racism and police brutality.

"Racism is a huge problem, a virus that needs to be addressed," Quinn told the Guardian. "I hope this sculpture will continue that dialogue, keep it in the forefront of people’s minds, be an energy conductor. The image created by Jen that day – when she stood on the plinth with all the hope of the future of the world flowing through her – made the possibility of greater change feel more real than it has before."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.