Toppling doesn’t mean the end of history

Every time I have tried to write a blog this last week, about current affairs, I can barely get it started before something else happens in the world and everything moves on.

We are, of course, still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic although you could be forgiven for thinking that it was in the past because suddenly protesting and rioting has taken the headlines following the killing of George Floyd on the 25th of May this year in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the USA.

As we know, he was killed when a police officer knelt on this neck and throat for almost nine minutes causing his death.  This was despite pleas from ambulance staff who wanted to check his well being.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, was well aware of what he was doing, of that there can be no doubt. You can’t cut off someones airways for nine minutes and expect the outcome to be anything other than death.  It’s murder.

While we know that George Floyd was no angel he should never have died that night in Minneapolis, he should have been taken into custody to face the law as Derek Chauvin will now.  Both had the same rights to be judged through the American justice system.  Chauvin took that right away from George Floyd.  That is not acceptable in any way.

Floyd’s murder sparked off large protests in Minneapolis because, yet again, here was a black man killed by a white police officer.  Black Lives Matter came out onto the street and it brought with them many hundreds and thousands not only in Minneapolis but across the USA and also here in the UK.

In the UK the obvious place to look for a protest is London, no matter what the protest is about it usually starts off in London and then spreads around the country.

It’s not really the protests/eventual riotous behaviour that I want to mention though.  It’s the toppling of statues in the UK beginning with Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol.  It was brought down a week past Sunday by “protesters” because of his links to the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.

That the statue was taken down is a good thing.  The thinking around the statue over recent years was that it should be brought down and maybe moved to a museum.  Sensible because the last thing that anyone would want to do in this country is try to erase our history whether good or bad.  Why? Because we have to learn from history.  Learning from history was the reason that slavery was abolished.  You can’t erase history and pretend it didn’t happen or it will repeat itself because no one learns from it.

Some sensible person thinking that the statue should be removed had started a petition.  Sadly it only got 11,000 or so signtures and the city has around a 500,000 population so either people didn’t care enough to sign it or they weren’t aware of Colston enough to understand.

In the time when Edward Colston was alive and well he was involved in a trade that was normal for the times, but did have a lot of opposition that would grow, and he used his great wealth build up parts of Bristol and eventually ended up with schools and streets names after him, he ploughed his money into a hospital and various other projects that helped Bristol to continue to thrive and build.  At the time he was well respected amongst many.

Let us jot along to 2020 where we know that the slavery industry was wrong and we know that it’s right to have a look at who we have statues of and why they are there.  Colston’s statue wasn’t erected because of his work in enslaving people but for what he did for Bristol.  Now though, in this time, we know that his life should be more detailed to reveal his history in the slave trade as well as what his own wealth brought.  People shouldn’t forget Edward Colston, not in the slightest, he should be remembered and his story told in a museum because his story is part of our history and a part that we learned greatly from.

If we’re going to remove statues now because of one part of they represent then we have to do it sensibly.   Statues can’t just be removed and dumped in a dock and that’s it because it doesn’t really mean anything.  Colston was brought out of the dock and is being cleaned up and ready to go into a museum where people will, fairly, be allowed to read about every part of his history.  People will judge him on his entire life.  They will make their own mind up.

Another reason that protesters should not be bringing down statues is for their own health.  In Portsmouth, Virginia, USA, a protester involved in the toppling of a confederate statue during the last week has ended up with severe head injuries that are potentially life-changing after part of the statue landed on his head.  No matter the cause this is not worth this severe injury.

It’s here I’ll return to COVID-19.  Thanks to the protesters in the UK there have been several meet-ups and marches that have included no social-distancing at all.  I could write at length about the abuse the police have taken, the violence they have endured and the idiots that felt like throwing bikes at horses.

However, my thoughts here are the people who are at home because of COVID-19, who can’t leave because they are shielding or because they’ve had the virus, or are protecting family who are vulnerable.  Or who are vulnerable themselves.  For the key workers who have endured weeks of the unknown, who are wearing PPE continually much to their detriment most of the time.  If you’re out traipsing the streets protesting anything or protecting anything, give a thought to those whose lives depend on you NOT doing that.

Then again, Monday 15th June saw the non-essential shops opening in England.  A good thing really because the economy has to get going, there is absolutely no reason for people to be lined up like they were.  The shops aren’t closing again at the end of the week.  Well, unless this extreme queueing continues. Who in their right mind needs to line up around the block for Primark, or any other store that’s non-essential?

Again, think of the people who are vulnerable to this illness COVID-19.  It hasn’t gone away even if you see crowds on the TV at a protest.  I’ve no doubt that the virus is slowing down and people are starting to relax their own rules about when to go out.  Inevitable really because we’re free thinking.

They talked about a new normal, yet with the queues we saw when the shops reopened there is no new normal, it looks like everyone is as greedy as before.