United Kingdom

Black Lives Matter statue of Jen Reid removed from Colston plinth

The sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester that replaced the statue of slave trader Edward Colston has been removed by council workers.

The statue, by artist Marc Quinn, was put up in the early hours of Wednesday, but workers removed it at around 5.20am on Thursday.

Bristol City Council said the sculpture was removed at its request, adding: "It will be held at our museum for the artist to collect or donate to our collection."

Quinn's life-size black resin and steel piece of Jen Reid was inspired after seeing a photo of her standing on the empty plinth following the toppling of the Colston statue.

The sculpture, entitled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid), was installed without the knowledge or consent of Bristol City Council. It had attracted large crowds after it was installed. 

Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, told BBC Radio 5 Live that the city was going through an "incredibly delicate time". "This is not about taking down a statue of Jen, who is a very impressive woman," Mr Rees said.

"This is about taking down a statue of a London-based artist who came and put it up without permission."

Mr Rees said when he spoke to sculptor Marc Quinn, the artist was unaware that the toppling of the Colston statue also caused damage to the grave of Scipio Africanus - a memorial to an enslaved African man.

"If you're going to do something, you need to do it with awareness and a full knowledge of the context in which you're doing it," Mr Rees said.

On Wednesday, Mr Rees tweeted: "I understand people want expression, but the statue has been put up without permission.

"Anything put on the plinth outside of the process we've put in place will have to be removed."

During a Facebook Live on Wednesday evening, Mr Rees said the commission would help Bristol decide "what we want to celebrate and who we choose to celebrate".

"Our belief was that that process would put us in a better position as a city to have a discussion, a debate and come to a collective view on what we put on that plinth, if anything," Mr Rees said.

He said people had differing views within the city and people needed to know that they had been "respected and there was a fair and just process" if they did not get what they wanted.

"Putting a statue on that plinth overnight did not come in line with that process and therefore it can't stay," Mr Rees said.

"It will be protected. It's an incredible piece of work to a very inspirational woman."

He said he believed an empty plinth was a "very powerful statement" as it represented a city that had stopped and was thinking about what it wanted to do next.

Mr Rees added: "It needs to be decided by the people of Bristol but that's going to take time and its a process we have to go through."

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