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Protests Cross the Atlantic



Adama Traoré and George Floyd Protests in Paris | Protests Cross the Atlantic | Featured

Protests against racial injustice have spread across the world, and one of the most affected countries outside the US is its former master, England. Over the weekend, protests in the United Kingdom saw a horse run wild, injuring many, and the dramatic destruction of a colonial-era statue depicting a famous slave-owner.

Protests Cross the Atlantic

In just two weeks, the death of George Floyd has spurred social movements around the world. As the US continues to see protests grow in cities across the country, European citizens are joining the calls for social change, often with the same side effects of disordered destruction.

French citizens have amassed in great crowds. Similar to George Floyd, Parisian Adama Traore serves as a martyr of racial injustice. Traore was killed in 2016 while in police custody. The protests took place in defiance of government prohibition. The government had banned the protests due to the risk of a second wave of coronavirus cases.

In London, protests took a chaotic turn when a horseback police officer collided with a light pole, falling to the ground. His frightened horse then ran wild through the city streets, sending one bystander flying as it rounded a corner.

From one city in the United States, the protests are sweeping across the world, mostly in majority-white countries. They reveal a bitter resentment toward perceived societal inequities. Beyond policing, the protests are about changing who these societies celebrate, and how they view their history.

Slave Trader Statue Torn Down

The protests abroad, like in the United States, are closely tied to the Black Lives Matter movement. In this spirit, calls for racial equality, particularly for black citizens, are the defining feature of the protests. Like in the US, much of the protesting has been peaceful, with intense incidents of disorder and destruction making the news.

One such incident took place in the city of Bristol, located in southwestern England. Thousands of protesters gathered in the city. As they marched to the call for racial justice, their energies were drawn to the statue of Edward Colston.

Colston is an important figure in local history. He is also a man who made great fortunes in the slave trade during the 17th Century. There have long been petitions in the city to remove the statue and rename other local landmarks that pay tribute to Colston, given his participation in human trafficking. Like so many social issues, simmering resentments boiled into raw action during the protests.

Spurred on by chants of “Tear it down! Tear it down!”, Protesters tied ropes to the statues and did just that. Then, the imposing statue came crashing to the ground, and thankfully no one was injured. Protesters then rolled it into the city harbor, where it sank unceremoniously to the depths of the ancient port.

A Metaphor for the Movement

Colston’s downfall presents a useful image for the larger movement. The scene was a metaphor for the larger objectives of the demonstrations taking place across the world. More than police justice, the people are marching for a revision of their countries’ shared history. Those in the Black Lives Matter movement, above all, want history to be viewed through a lens of oppression and disenfranchisement for minority races, especially those of African decent, rather than to celebrate the accomplishments of their captors.

The struggle inherent in these protests goes beyond policing. Inherent in this wave of protests is a desire to dismantle institutions that demonstrators feel have never served them, to tear them down in order to build something wholly new. It is for this reason that such drastic moves as dissolving police departments are gaining real traction in local governments. The mission to “tear the statue down”, and the perception that it can finally be done, is what inspires protesters to continue, and what sows so much fear among those who do not share their cause.

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