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THE TURDS OF TURD HALL

Turds of turd hall

All white! What a lovely picture of THE SOCIETY OF MERCHANT VENTURERS sat on their racist arses sporting self-awarded medals at Venturers Hall, Clifton. But what’s the problem with this private membership club for evil old farts with lots of money? Well, over the last few years, the venturers or their members have:

  • Prevented a corrective plaque going on the statue of their hero, Edward Colston, explaining his role in the slave trade, his religious chauvanism, his political party affiliation and how many children he murdered for money.
  • Venturer’s Trust chair Anthony Browne mysteriously quit in 2019 soon after potentially defaming anti-racist Colston campaigners.
  • Used their unelected role on the council’s Downs Committee to unlawfully allow Bristol Zoo to use the Downs as a car park. Then used a large undisclosed six figure sum of council taxpayers money to unsuccessfully defend their actions in court.
  • Provided a character reference for Alistair “Pervy” Perry in 2016, at the trial of this former Colston Girls School Headteacher, where he was convicted of indecently assaulting a girl
    from his church group in Weston-super-Mare.
  • Until 2016, arranged sick celebrations for children at their schools of Edward Colston’s life. Hosted by the Bishop of Bristol at the city’s cathedral.
  • Public sector looter, First Bus boss, Trevor “Grubby” Smallwood, received an Honorary Doctorate from UWE for “entrepreneurial and charity work”. In 2009 Smallwood had to
    pay £2.7m in Corporation Tax after attempting to dodge the tax via a trust fund he temporarily based in Mauritius. Coincidentally in 2014, UWE vice Chancellor Steve “The Chiropodist” West, became a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers.
  • Appointed Gillian “The Sewage Queen” Camm, a former Director of Wessex Water, as their “Master” last year. Returning to our turd metaphor, Ms Camm earned some of her wealth by tipping shit in our rivers.

Is it time for this gang of self-serving amoral tossers to take Colston’s advice – “Go and do thou likewise” – and drown in the docks?

‘The Merchant Venturers need to remove themselves from our governance structures, getting out of Bristol’s democracy – removed if necessary.’

Turds of turd hall
Why are these unaccountable wealthy bastards allowed to spend public money on themselves as they see fit?

Public statement to today’s Down Committee Meeting by Cllr Christine Townsend, Green Party, Southville Ward:

The Nolan Principles cannot be served with the current governance set-up of this committee despite the elected members being bound by them as the Society of Merchant Venturers are not. Nor does the Society of Merchant Venturers make any financial contribution. The Committee’s secrecy, incompetence and extravagance have, cost the Bristolian tax-payer hundreds of thousands of pounds and must now be dealt with.

The recent Judicial Review illuminated how public funds were used to defend the indefensible. The settlement demonstrated that the Committee’s licensing decisions were, as they had been warned, contrary to the purpose of the Victorian piece of legislation that this committee is bound by. Society of Merchant Venturer members led on these decisions.

The Society of Merchant Venturers have sought to involve themselves in the democratic process and influence decisions in this and other arenas which has been well publicised in recent years. The time has come for a complete overhaul of how and why public money can be used by private individuals to further their own views, interests and ideological positions. The elected representatives of the people, including the Lord Mayor, must step-up and address these now pressing issues that run contrary to the democratic society in which we are told we live.

Officers administrating this committee do so as servants of the people paid from the public purse. Yet the contortions exercised in relation to the Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations questions from Downs for People do not reflect this. Your agenda today does not include the minutes from the Governance Task and Finish Group that previous paperwork indicates apparently met on December 13th. Nor could I find a record of a meeting stated as scheduled for September 8th – Why is that? Where are these minutes? This is unacceptable.

Councillors on this committee cannot claim the role of the elected mayor lacks transparency,
openness, avoidable loss of public funds and democratic decision making, whilst simultaneously dragging their feet with inaction and inertia in relation to this committee – that would be hypocrisy of the highest order.

The Society of Merchant Venturers need to hand over the Downs and remove themselves from our governance structures, getting out of Bristol’s democracy – removed if necessary.

Only those of us with a mandate to represent the people can be in position to make decisions over how our public spaces are managed and how much public money is spent on them. It is the people who have been paying for the upkeep and development of public space, not the Society of Merchant Venturers.

COLSTON FOUR: DAY 9 – “CREAKING AND RACIST LEGAL MASQUERADE vs THE PEOPLE”

***** STOP PRESS: NOT GUILTY!!! *****

Quiet day today with Bristol City Council’s Recorder of Bristol, Judge “Ded” Peter Blair QC summing up for the jury.

The highlight was probably Ded emphasising that “the whole ground shook” when the statue fell. Perhaps not dissimilar to the ground shifting by the day inside his ludicrous courtroom

Ded packed the jury off at lunchtime, signing off, “please, jury, gather your paperwork and read your packs and, when you get to them, follow the questions in the route to verdict. And be certain not to talk about it during lunch.” 

Now we wait. Will the jury side with the white male public schoolboys working for generous fees to uphold a racist and creaking institutional legal masquerade or will they side with the people and justice?

COLSTON FOUR: DAY 8 – “How dare the council turn up as a witness for the prosecution in this trial.”

scales

Yesterday was spent with prosecution and defence summing up. Here are a few highlights.

Sir William Scrotesack QC for the prosecution:

‘The council process to deal with the statue moved glacially.’

‘You may be frustrated that you haven’t heard from Marvin Rees or the Society of Merchant Venturers. Concentrate on the evidence you have heard. That is what you try this case on.’

‘It is not a public inquiry, not about politics. It’s not about emotion but cold hard facts and, fundamentally, the rule of law.’

‘Conviction would be wholly proportionate.’

Scrotesack QC also went to great pains to explain that neither he nor the court were in any way racist. Indeed not, he’s merely a public schoolboy who knows on which side his bread is buttered and earns a fantastic living working for the racist institutions of the state.

Tom Wainwright, defending Milo Ponsford:

‘[The Colston Four] showed the world the people of Bristol are willing to stand up for what they believe in’

‘Their actions created history. History is destroyed by not telling the truth. What, if anything, really has the city lost?’

‘What value did the statue have before June 7, 2020? What historical or educational value did it have?’

‘Describing Colston as a virtuous man is a lie.’

Liam Walker, defending Sage Willoughby:

‘Sage Willoughby and each of these defendants were on the right side of history and, I submit, the right side of the law.

Veneration of him [Colston] was an act of abuse and celebrated the achievements of a racist mass murderer.”  

‘His actions cannot be categorised as a violent act’

‘[The statue] was itself an offence. Over more than 30 years nothing was done.’

‘The erection of the statue was an attempt to erase history. History cannot be erased but history can be confronted.’

Blinne Ni Ghralaigh defending Rhian Graham:

‘Rhian acted in response to what she saw as a crime of the statue being on display and the abject failure of the council’s duty to remove the statue.’

‘Democracy had broken down around that statue. Cleo Lake said it “was embarrassing that these defendants are in the box.”’

‘This is not bristol: we will not dress up a devil in angels robes.’

‘[The statue was an] obscene glorification’

Raj Chada, defending Jake Skuse:

 ‘The Council should be on trial. They could have acted. They had a very long time to sort this out.’

How dare the council turn up as a witness for the prosecution in this trial.’

‘Jake Skuse showed ‘unvarnished honesty’ in admitting to the jury it was his idea to roll the statue to the harbourside.’

‘Jake Skuse in his own inimitable style said ‘fuck off’ to the statue.’

Today the judge will attempt a summing up of the issues for jury before they retire to consider a verdict.

COLSTON FOUR: DAY 7 – “A FINAL FUCK OFF TO THE SLAVER”

COUNCIL WORKERS BACK HOMELESS NOT THE BOSSES

The final defendant Jake Skuse gave evidence today. He’s on trial for helping, along with many others, to roll the Colston statue down to the docks and throwing it in. And he wasn’t in the mood to play that establishment parlour game called British justice as played with straightfaces by generations of public schoolboys.

Among the gems Jake told the court under cross examination from Scrotescak QC’s team were that his thoughts when the statue came down were “get this racist fucker away from here so he can’t be put back up” and that throwing Colston in the docks was “a final fuck off to the slaver”.

He also openly admitted he deliberately helped remove the statue so that our idiot council couldn’t put it back up again.

Jake’s evidence closed the case for the defence and the rest of the day was taken up with more secret legal discussions between judge, prosecution and defence.before The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge “Ded” Peter Blair QC adjourned the trial until 4 January.

COLSTON FOUR: DAY 6 – “PROFOUNDLY SHAMEFUL”

Slave ship

Rhianne Graham’s defence continued today with a character reference from her employer followed by Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, defending Rhianne, reading an agreed statement from Gloria Daniel. Gloria is a black Bristolian.

We think that the old white men zealously prosecuting and hearing this case in the alleged ‘public interest’ – an interest that remarkably coincides with the dying interests of a narrow wealthy white establishment – need to consider this statement very carefully. And then, maybe, they need to consider whether defending some shitty old monument to wealth, slavery, white power and the British establishment is really the best use they can make of their rather sad, empty, self-important little lives:

“My father was born in Barbados in 1934. He arrived in England in 1957 at the age of 23. He was recruited by London Transport in Bridgetown, Barbados. He was required to sign a one year contract with a penalty of £95 if he did not complete the full year.

My family name, Daniel, is my father’s name. It is a plantation name. My father carries this name as my grandfather’s grandfather was an enslaved person ‘owned’ by Thomas Daniel.
Thomas Daniel laid claim to my grandfather’s grandfather. He was the son and main heir of Thomas Daniel, the fifth largest sugar importer into Bristol before 1800. The younger Thomas Daniel became an elected member of Bristol Common Council in 1785 at the age of 23 and the Sheriff of Bristol between 1786 and 1787. In 1796 Thomas Daniel became an Alderman, a position he held for the next 30 years. In 1797 he became Mayor of Bristol. He had a role in the council for over 50 years in total.

Thomas Daniel was a member and Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) and a founding member of Bristol’s West India Committee, which was specifically set up to petition parliament against the abolition of the slave trade. He was also a president at various times of the Colston Society, the Dolphin Society and the Anchor Society.

Because of his political influence in the city, Thomas Daniel earned himself the nickname of the ‘King of Bristol’. His business interests included sugar importing and sugar brokering, iron importing, banking and investing in Bedminster coal mines and the Bristol Copper Company. He was a leading investor in the Bristol Dock Company as the official representative of the SMV, becoming the warden of that organisation in 1805. He owned and part-owned approximately 25 ships which sailed between Bristol and Barbados.

Continuing in his role his father had carved out as a creditor, the firm of Thomas Daniel and Sons became dominant mortgage providers for planters in Barbados and the Windward Islands.

Like many of the mercantile elites in Bristol, he ensured the safeguarding of his West India interests through his presidency of various societies (including the Colston Society) among other roles to ensure his place in wider Bristol political society.

After the Act of Abolition in 1833 was passed, compensating slave owners for the loss of their ‘property’, Thomas Daniel and his brother made over 52 claims for 6,900 enslaved people and 27 of these claims were successful.

The successful claims were for approximately 4,424 people including my grandfather’s grandfather. His name was John Isaac and I understand that he was around five years old at the time. The claims may also have included his parents.

Thomas Daniel and his brother John received over £130,000 in compensation which was divided between them, with Thomas Daniel receiving compensation for a further 200 enslaved people that were personally ascribed to him. This made him one of the largest claimants of compensation money given to British slave owners, the third largest in the country.

There are several ways of working out inflation rates to compare what the figure equates to today – in terms of purchasing power the figure allotted to Thomas would amount to over £7 million today – however the real figure of compensation to get one’s head around is that the total amount of the “bail out” to slave owners of £20 million constituted approximately 40 per cent of the GDP at that time.

It is too traumatising for me to think of the individual sum that was configured for John Isaac and each and every other enslaved human being. However, it is important to understand the “apprenticeship” scheme that accompanied the compensation which meant that formerly enslaved people who had been given their so-called freedom were then required to continue to work for free for a further four to six years (depending on the class of worker) before being entirely free. Anyone under the age of eight was emancipated immediately but John Isaac’s parents, if they were still alive, would have remained enslaved under the apprenticeship scheme.

Professor Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, describes Barbados as the most ruthlessly colonised country with it taking, at one point, on average seven years from transportation to the colony for enslaved people to be worked to death.

British tax-payers including the British African/Caribbean diaspora who were invited to work in post war Britain, also contributed to repaying the interest on the government loan (raised by the Rothschild Syndicate) obtained to pay the compensation through their taxes until 2015, This means that my father, his brothers, his children including me, and his children’s children, including my own nephews and nieces, would have contributed towards the compensation for the ‘freedom’ of his great-grandfather, my great, great grandfather.

When I heard that the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston had been toppled I felt a huge wave of relief. The world had witnessed the public execution of George Floyd and we had finally arrived at a place in history where people would no longer tolerate the continuing dehumanisation of black people.

I am aware that George Floyd’s great, great grandfather was an enslaved man, like my own. He or his forebears would have been transported to America on a slave ship, such as those occupied by the Royal African Company under Edward Colston. In the words of Malcolm X, referring to the unassuming rock said to mark the point of arrival of European settlers in what we now know to be America, ‘we did not land on Plymouth Rock, the rock was landed on us’.

The ancestors of George Floyd did not choose to go to America, they were taken there by force and their descendants have lived with the racist legacy of that trade.

The fact that the statue of a slave trader had remained up for so long, and without contextualisation, was in my view profoundly shameful. I am aware the Colston Society was disbanded after the statue came down. I do not believe that would have happened otherwise.

The statue being felled and dragged through the streets of Bristol to a watery grave centred the global conversation on the birthing role Britain played in the transatlantic slave trade. It has not only removed a statue that caused a huge amount of hurt to the community, it has also served to educate people about the role and about Colston himself.”

The trial will continue tomorrow if The Bristol Recorder and the Crown Prosecutor are shameless enough to turn up and continue with this morally repugnant fiasco masquerading as justice.

COLSTON FOUR: DAY FIVE – “THE ONLY PEOPLE DEFENDING THAT STATUE WAS A SMALL GROUP OF THE WEALTHY ELITE”

Plaque
The plaque the Venturers banned

The Colston Four trial resumed today after a three day weekend. No doubt allowing The Recorder of Bristol Judge ‘Ded’ and Crown Prosecutor Sir William Scrotesack QC some rest and recuperation before continuing, this week, to waste our time and money prosecuting decent people for doing what their beloved establishment, which rewards them so well, was too racist, reactionary, weak and ineffectual to do themselves.

The day started with defence brief, Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, calling her client, defendant Rhianne Graham, to give evidence. After providing some background about how she ended up in Bristol, Rhianne told the jury she had found it strange there was a statue of a slave trader in the middle of the city.

She explained to the jury she was inspired by suffragette Rosa May Billinghurst, who committed criminal damage in the name of a cause. Before saying she saw nothing admirable in a murderer glorified in Bristol as a philanthropist. 

The jury was also told how a newly-worded ‘corrective’ plaque was created for the statue but never put up after the Merchant Venturers interfered in the process and ‘dumbed it down’. They objected to the fact that the plaque mentioned children dying on Colston’s ships and correctly stated that Colston was a Tory.

“Democracy had well and truly broken down around that statue,” Rhianne told the jury and that, for over 100 years, people had asked for the statue to be removed only to be ignored. “Somebody should have been listening,” she said.

Rhianne finished her evidence to the defence by agreeing she took a length of rope to the Black Lives Matter Protest to provide it to the people of Bristol should they wish to pull the statue down, which, it appears, they did.

Under cross-examination from Scrotesack QC, Rhianne repeated  she took 30 metres of climbing rope with her to the BLM protest to provide it to people should they want to remove the statue and agreed she did not have permission to bring the statue down.

She also told Scrotesack QC that she didn’t see the toppling as violent, any more than bringing down the Berlin Wall was violent and that “the only people defending that statue was a small group of the wealthy elite who had an interest in defending Colston.”

Following Rhianne, former Lord Mayor of Bristol, Cleo Lake, gave evidence and told the jury she felt “a great sense of relief” and “overjoyed” when the statue was toppled. She also told the court prosecuting the defendants was “embarrassing”.

Finally, Massive Attack entered the fray today with a thread on Twitter about establishment denial and inertia in Bristol over Colston and the disturbing role of the Merchant Venturers in the city:

COLSTON FOUR: DAY FOUR – THE HATE CRIME STATUE, A HISTORY LESSON AND SOME TV GLAMOUR

Olusoga
Man on the telly

With hapless clown Crown Prosecutor Sir William Scrotesack QC back home and being comforted by nanny yesterday evening after completing a turgid prosecution case characterised by a conveyor belt into the witness box of awful white male careerists earning a good salary from propping up establishment racism, court returned today.

To sum up the Crown Prosecution case: they spent three days proving the defendants had pulled down the statue, which they have admitted anyway and then pointed and said, “ooh look, they broke a bit of pavement”.

The defence case continued today with a definite frisson of early morning excitement at news that there would be a bit of b-list celeb TV glamour in the shape of historian David Olusuga appearing as a witness.

However, first up was defendant Sage Willoughby continuing his testimony from yesterday. and what a rousing performance he gave. Providing an outline of the difference between what we consider justice in Bristol and the dead hand of British law as practised in our courts and by those spiritual (if not actual) descendants of slavers, the public schoolboy barristers of the Crown Prosecution Service.

“Colston was a racist and a slave trader who murdered thousands and enslaved even more. Imagine having a Hitler statue in front of a holocaust survivor, it feels similar if not worse,” Sage told the jury. Adding, “I think it was a hate crime having that statue left up there so I felt legitimate in what I was doing.” 

The court heard Willoughby voluntarily handed himself into police and told them that he climbed the statue and put a rope around its neck “because it was the right thing to do”.

When asked about those unapologetically racist fuckers, the Merchant Venturers’ having contrary views to his, he told the jury they received money from slavery until 2015. He ended by describing the Colston Statue as a “hate crime” and agreed he had caused it damage “but, it had caused more damage when it was in place,” he said.

Next into the witness box for the defence was historian David Olosuga. One of only two black people on the Reverend Rees’s local History Commission until he recently quit without explanation.

David, the first black person to give evidence, provided an overview to the jury on Colston. the Merchant Venturers and the city’s role in the slave trade and detailed some of the horrors of the trade. The jury is reported to have asked for some more information about the Society of Merchant Venturers and why they have had influence over Bristol City Council. We look forward to that explanation too.

When asked if toppling the statue was an act of violence. Olusoga’s response was cut short by The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Ded who called an afternoon break to later return and refuse to let Olusoga answer the question.

That just about concluded day four of the trial of the Four. It will continue tomorrow,