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Banksy to sell T-shirts in aid of protesters facing trial over removal of slave trader statue

Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

British graffiti artist Banksy has announced that he will be selling T-shirts to help those charged with pulling down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Anti-racist protesters toppled the statue in the city of Bristol in southwest England on June 7, 2020, during a demonstration in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in the US.

The protesters tied rope around the bronze statue of Colston and pulled it down from its plinth. They then took it to Bristol Harbour and threw it into the River Avon, which runs through the city.

Four people were charged by police over the removal and are due to go to trial next week. Banksy said his souvenir T-shirts would “mark the occasion” and would be available from outlets in Bristol from Saturday for £25 ($33).

Writing on Instagram, the anonymous artist — who is also believed to be from Bristol although relatively little is known about his identity — said he would send “all proceeds to the defendants so they can go for a pint.”

Banksy also shared a photo of the T-shirts, emblazoned with the stenciled word “Bristol” above an image of the empty plinth where the statue formerly stood, with the rope hanging down from it, and a protester’s placard lying next to it.

Bristol’s Ujima Radio said the T-shirts would be available for purchase from five independent stores in the city, with only one permitted per customer. PA Media reported thousands of people were queuing to buy the limited edition items on Saturday.

Colston was a slave trader and merchant who helped transport tens of thousands of people from Africa as slaves across the Atlantic and sold them for labor, primarily for work in sugar plantations in the Caribbean and Virginia

His statue, installed in 1895, is just one example of the way he was honored in his home city of Bristol, with roads, schools and buildings also being named after him — although many have since been renamed.

At the time of the toppling, Banksy suggested one idea for the statue’s future would be to “put him back on the plinth, tie cable round his neck and commission some life size bronze statues of protesters in the act of pulling him down.”

The statue is now temporarily on display at the M Shed museum in Bristol, alongside placards from the protest where it was pulled down. It was placed there in June and will stay until at least January 2022 while a consultation takes place on its future.

After the murder of George Floyd and the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, Banksy — who has been confirmed in interviews to be a White man — shared an anti-racist statement online.

“People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system,” he wrote. “Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. This faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it…. this is a white problem.”

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