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How do we think about taking down controversial statues in the UK? Show more Show less
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In June 2020 protestors circulated a hit list of controversial UK statues to be taken down. These included Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Robert Baden-Powell. Campaigners say these statues must be ripped down because they contribute to racialised systemic violence. In turn, this trickles down into every facet of public life and subordinates ethnic minorities. On the other side, groups made up of mostly far right activists say this is deeply offensive. They see this lobby as a violent mob that have been undeservedly handed a mandate to whitewash UK history. So, who are these groups, what do they think, and why?

How dare they tear down our statues Show more Show less

This group sees the anti-statue activists as lawless mob. Proponents include the EDL, All Lives Matter activists, and the alt-right press.
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The police are working in the interests of the enemy when they support those who tear down controversial statues

The role of the police is to protect British people and British interests. Their failure to protect our statues during this time suggests otherwise.

The Argument

During the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in June 2020, the statue of Edward Colston, who was known to build his fortune on slave trading, was toppled and thrown into the Bristol Harbour. The act was almost immediately decried by government ministers, such as Priti Patel, who described the removal as “utterly disgraceful”.[1] The Chairman of the Police Federation, John Apter, criticised the inaction of Avon and Somerset police suggesting that the lack of presence from the police displayed a negative message of policing. It is averred that although the local authorities should have considered taking down the statue before the events unfolded as they did, the removal of the statue with ropes, its rolling down the streets of Bristol, and into the Bristol Harbour were unlawful. That is not the way things should have been allowed to transpire. To not have a police presence during such a time is unheard of, and having police stepping back, rather than intervening, whilst such an incident took place, was wholly inappropriate. The police should have intervened as the removal of the statue was a criminal act. [2]

Counter arguments

Bristol’s chief of police defended his officers’ decision not to intervene on the day that the Edward Colston statue was toppled. It is argued that during such protests, intervention by the police had the potential to escalate the situation into a violent confrontation, where not only the police, and those suspected to be responsible for the removal of the statue were at risk of being hurt, but also other parties protesting and onlookers. Scenes of police fighting with protestors over the removal of a statue of a slave trader would cause harm to the level of trust in police in an already delicate situation.[3] The criminal act of toppling the statue has not been condoned. A police investigation into the criminal damage is taking place. The decision, however, not to act at the time that the statue was toppled was based on sound judgment, taken with a calm, common sense approach, and most significantly, took into consideration the safety of the public, protesting in the midst of heated emotions. As a result of the police’s decision to take no action, there were no injuries or arrests in a crowd of over 10,000 people. [4]

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jun/08/keir-starmer-edward-colston-bristol-statue-wrong
  2. https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/police-federation-condemn-bristol-police-4203336
  3. https://www.expressandstar.com/news/uk-news/2020/06/08/police-chief-defends-protest-tactics-after-statue-torn-down/
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-52993995
This page was last edited on Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 09:14 UTC

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