'You cannot erase history' - Edward Colston statue protester calls for slave trade memorial

Rhian Graham, arrives at Bristol Crown Court where he is accused of criminal damage over the topplin

Rhian Colston, who grew up in Norfolk, and was acquitted at Bristol Crown Court after her involvement in the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol - Credit: PA

One of the four protesters who toppled the statue of slave trade Edward Colston and grew up in Norfolk believes the statue should be auctioned to fund a slave trade memorial. 

Ms Graham stood trial with three others accused of illegally removing the monument to the 17th century figure during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol in June 2020, but the so-called "Colston four" were cleared.

(left to right) Sage Willoughby, Jake Skuse, Milo Ponsford and Rhian Graham outside Bristol Crown Co

(left to right) Sage Willoughby, Jake Skuse, Milo Ponsford and Rhian Graham outside Bristol Crown Court. They have been cleared of criminal damage for pulling down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020 - Credit: PA

The 30-year-old, who now lives in Bristol but grew up in Wroxham and studied at Broadland High School, now called Broadland High Ormiston Academy, said: "You cannot erase history. What I believe the toppling has done is illuminate history that was being hidden. More people are aware of who Colston was.

"One of the main problems with that statue was how badly contextualised it was, so not only is it a statue of a slave trader but also claims that he was virtuous and wise. 

"I think we should look less at statues and more at the reasons why people are so frustrated that they would feel the need to pull them down."

File photo dated 07/06/20 of protesters throwing statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour durin

Protesters pulling down the Edward Colston statue in Bristol in June 2020 - Credit: PA

She believed the statue, which is now on display at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, would now be worth between £150,000 and £300,000 at auction.

"We should put the valuation of the statue to the test, sell the statue and put it towards creating a museum/memorial in Bristol that tells the truth about its involvement with the slave trade and celebrates the contributions of African people."

Ms Graham, who worked in pubs and bars in Norfolk before studying at university and leaving the area aged 21, described the day the statue was removed as "joyous and cathartic".

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She said she witnessed "a lot of casual racism, sexism and homophobia" when she lived in Norfolk and first became interested in social justice when my friend from Norfolk went on a photography trip to Palestine, bringing back stories of the people and the conflict.

Reflecting on the reaction to the acquittal, the tour manager was concerned about the "war on woke" rhetoric.

The 30-yeat-old added: "Woke was born out of the African American civil rights movement. It literally means to have an understanding or awareness of cultural and political injustice. What's the alternative? Stay ignorant and devoid of empathy?"

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