Banksy proposes this new statue to replace torn-down UK monument

British artist Banksy debuted to the public a new proposal to replace the Bristol statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader whose wealth helped the city grow.

On Sunday, anti-racism demonstrators pulled the 18-foot bronze likeness down, dragged it to the nearby harbor and dumped it in the River Avon — sparking both delight and dismay in Britain and beyond.

In the English port city that once launched slave ships, Colston’s empty plinth has become this week the center of a debate about racism, history and memory. On Monday the empty base, surrounded by Black Lives Matter placards, drew a stream of activists, office workers and onlookers. Some posed proudly in front of it, others stood in silence, a few argued. Some Bristolians said toppling the statue was historical vandalism. Others welcomed the removal of a stain on their city.

“What should we do with the empty plinth in the middle of Bristol?,” Banksy wrote on Instagram with an image for the replacement on Tuesday. “Here’s an idea that caters for both those who miss the Colston statue and those who don’t. We drag him out the water, put him back on the plinth, tie cable round his neck and commission some life size bronze statues of protestors in the act of pulling him down. Everyone happy. A famous day commemorated.”

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Images of protesters toppling the statue — one posing with his knee on its neck, evoking the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — made news around the world. They resonated especially in the United States, where campaigners have sought to remove Confederate memorials.

Since Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter protests have spread across the U.S. and to countries around the globe, including Britain, where more than 200 have been held. Demonstrators in London, Glasgow, Bristol and other U.K. cities — whose cultural diversity is rooted in Britain’s long-vanished empire — have expressed solidarity with the United States, and also demanded change closer to home.

The protests have been predominantly peaceful but some demonstrators in London hurled objects at police and spray-painted a statue of Winston Churchill. The government said 135 people had been arrested and 35 police officers hurt, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the outbreaks of “thuggery.”

Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said the prime minister viewed the statue-toppling in Bristol as “a criminal act” and said the police should “hold to account those responsible.” Home Secretary Priti Patel, Britain’s interior minister, said it was “sheer vandalism.”

But Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said it was a significant moment in the city’s history.

“I cannot condone criminal damage,” said Rees, who is the city’s first black mayor. “But also, as the descendant of Jamaicans who were enslaved at some point, and this man was a slaver, I won’t deny that the statue was an affront to me.”

Colston has long been a problematic presence in Bristol, 120 miles southwest of London. He was a senior official in the Royal African Company, which in the late 1600s trafficked 80,000 African men, women and children to slavery in the Americas. About 20,000 died on the journey.

Bristol went on to become Britain’s biggest port for slave ships during the early 18th century. Ships based in the city transported at least half a million Africans into slavery before Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807. Many 18th-century Bristolians helped fund the trade and shared in the profits, which also built handsome Georgian houses and buildings that still dot the city.

Colston died in 1721, leaving his fortune to charity. Modern-day Bristol has Colston’s Almshouses, Colston schools, Colston Avenue, Colston Tower and the Colston Hall concert venue, which plans to change its name. An annual church service of thanksgiving for Colston’s life was held until a few years ago.

The city attempted to replace the plaque on the statue extolling Colson as “virtuous and wise” with one that mentioned his role as a slave trader. But several years of wrangling failed to come up with an agreed wording.

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On Saturday, Banksy posted his most recent new piece on Instagram, in which he highlights the portrait of a faceless black man and a candle. The full painting shows that the candle has set the American flag on fire, likely a reference to how Floyd’s death has sparked nationwide outrage.

Banksy included a message with the painting, which talks about how he feels the need to get involved because this is not just an issue for black people, but is also a “white problem.”

“It’s not their problem. It’s mine,” the post reads. “Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. This faulty system is making their life a misery, it’s not their job to fix it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.