On 7 June 2020, the statue of slave trader and religious bigot Edward Colston, which had blighted the centre of Bristol for well over a century, was assisted off its plinth and taken for a walk for a bath in the city docks near Pero’s Bridge (a bridge named after a former slave. Ed.).
Yesterday in Bristol Crown Court a jury of their peers found the defendants Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, Sage Willoughby, and Jake Skuse – the so-called Colston 4 – not guilty of criminal damage as a result of Eddie the Slaver ending up in the drink that afternoon a year and half ago, as The Bristol Cable reports.
The verdict has not gone down well with some right-leaning culture warriors and those whose view of history is coloured more by the propaganda extolling the virtues of the British Empire instead of the brutality of its crimes against humanity, theft, violence and exploitation. This tweet from the Save Our Statues account is a typical example.
The sense of outrage is not confined to social media. In the vanguard was the outrage of the Daily Express (which some still call the Express. Ed.) with the headline below today’s front page.
Just above the headline a small matter of media hypocrisy comes into view. Note the promotional flash for the glorious National Trust 2022 calendar. Not so very long ago the Express was one of those right-wing newspapers that were condemning the National Trust and accusing it of being woke (whatever that’s supposed to mean. Ed.) for the organisation’s efforts to learn more about the history of its properties, resulting in the Trust publishing a report last year that found 93 of its properties had connections with colonialism and slavery.
Furthermore, it was just right-leaning social media accounts and media that were outraged. Members of Parliament also joined in the outrage.
Step forward Robert ‘Honest Bob‘ Jenrick, MP for Newark and formerly Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Jenrick took to Twitter yesterday to pontificate as follows:
We undermine the rule of law, which underpins our democracy, if we accept vandalism and criminal damage are acceptable forms of political protest.
They aren’t. Regardless of the intentions.
It is encouraging to see such strong support for the rule of law from Honest Bob, a man who when occupying his lofty Whitehall perch was found by the High Court to have acted unlawfully in approving a £1bn east London development by former publisher and Tory Party donor Richard Desmond.
The Colston 4 verdict and the verdict of unlawful action Jenrick’s planning decision clearly do not sit well with the likes of Honest Bob.
However, he and others need to remember that justice – especially as perceived by juries in their verdicts – does not always match everyone’s expectations, especially where concepts of lawful and/or reasonable excuse are involved.
Justice is not like Woolworth’s Pick’n’Mix sweet counter and the likes of Honest Bob are in no position to lecture the masses about the sanctity of the rule of law.
In conclusion, here’s a wee photo for Bob, the right-wing press and social media accounts to think about. 😀