BLM protester Rhian Graham calls for slave trade memorial

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Published:
16:03 15 January 2022



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

Ms Graham was tried along with three others accused of unlawfully 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 Court. They were 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 can’t erase history. What I believe What the reversal did is shed light on the story that was hidden. More people know who Colston was.

“One of the main issues with this statue was how poorly contextualized it was, so not only is it a statue of a slave trader, it also claims he was virtuous and wise.

“I think we should look less at the statues and more at why people are so frustrated they would feel the need to tear them down.”


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

Protesters pull down the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol in June 2020
– Credit: PA

She thought the statue, which is now on display at the 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 in place to create a museum/memorial in Bristol that tells the truth about its involvement in the slave trade and celebrates the contributions of the African people .”

Ms Graham, who worked in pubs and bars in Norfolk before going to university and leaving the area aged 21, described the day the statue was removed as ‘joyful and cathartic “.

She said she witnessed “a lot of casual racism, sexism and homophobia” while living in Norfolk and first became interested in social justice when my friend from Norfolk took a photography trip to Palestine, bringing back stories about the people and the conflict.

Reflecting on the reaction to the acquittal, the tour director worried about the rhetoric of the “war on revival”.

The 30-year-old added: “Woke was born out of the African-American civil rights movement. It literally means having an understanding or awareness of cultural and political injustice. What is the alternative? To remain ignorant and devoid of ’empathy?”

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