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?
People gathered at College Green last week to protest a part of the ‘Police Crackdown Bill’ that targets the Gypsy, Traveller, and Roma community. The bill gives the Police new powers to fine and imprison people, simply for residing in a vehicle at the side of the road. It also gives Police the power to confiscate the homes of people they ‘suspect’ will commit trespass at some point in the future. The bill effectively bans and criminalises anyone who lives nomadically – whether through culture, choice, or necessity.
The protest began peacefully with people sat on the grass around tents and placards. The atmosphere was relaxed and calm as speeches were made, people danced, and others laid flowers and lit candles for Sarah Everard at the memorial to her. From here, ‘Chloe’ takes up the story. This is her full statement:
My name is Chloe. I was at the ‘Kill the Bill’ peaceful protest on College Green last Tuesday. My grandad was part of the Traveller community. I wanted to go along to show my support for the Gypsy, Traveller, and Roma communities threatened by the bill. I also wanted to take flowers to the Sarah Everard memorial. I have been working so much lately, I haven’t had the chance to go. I went with my friend Sophie. We are both shop workers from Knowle, Bristol. I am 25, Sophie is 22.
We placed our flowers and stood there reading the messages. Although it was sad, I felt so moved by the memorial and all the flowers and messages people had left there.
We had been there for about 20 minutes when a gang of riot Police ran up to us from behind. They started smashing up the memorial. They were kicking and stomping on the flowers and teddy bears. They were so angry. It looked like they were trying to make a point.
My friend Sophie took a step towards them and said: ‘Please don’t… this is a memorial for Sarah Everard’. The Police Officer said: ‘F*ck Sarah Everard’, and hit her over the head with his baton. The force knocked her off her feet, and her head hit the ground with a thud. As she was laying on the ground, he kicked her in the stomach. I started screaming and a second Police Officer hit me in the face with his riot shield and I fell to the ground. Blood was pouring from my nose.
I couldn’t see Sophie at this point, there were too many legs in the way. I struggled to get to my feet. The last thing I saw was Sophie being dragged off by her hair – completely unresponsive.
I was hysterical and crying at this point. Everything seemed a blur. I eventually found Sophie and she was conscious, but very confused about where we were and what we were doing there.
The next day, we phoned the Police to report what happened. The Officer told us we were lying, and said: ”You’re lucky we’re not arresting you for criminal damage”.
My view of the Police has completely changed. They acted like terrorists. The Officers should be punished for what they did to us, but I don’t think they will”. [Statement Ends]
We showed this statement to Bristol Mayor – Marvin Rees. He has refused to condemn the violence meted out to Chloe and Sophie, and said in a statement: ‘Police in Bristol have shown they are capable of managing protests well and with sensitivity’.
We also sent Chloe’s statement to all four Labour MP’s in Bristol; Kerry McCarthy, Thangam Debbonaire, Karin Smyth, and Darren Jones. Each one refused to criticise or condemn the actions of the Police. Not one of them offered any kind of sympathy or regret at the way Chloe and Sophie were treated.
An unelected, unaccountable group of corporate chancers calling themselves the ‘Bristol City Leaders group’ have heaped praise on the Police saying: ‘We have complete confidence in the way Police have acted’. Despite many not actually living in Bristol, they have taken it upon themselves to speak for all of Bristol, as they proclaim: ‘The protestors are nothing but thugs who demean us all’.
We showed Chloe’s statement to five members of the shady ‘Bristol City Leaders group’, who some say is just a rebrand of the Merchant Venturers. These include: Ben Lowndes (Social – Communications Consultancy), Oona Goldsworthy (Brunel Care), Professor Steve West (Vice Chancellor – UWE), the Bishop of Bristol – Vivienne Faull, and Andy Forbes (Principal of City of Bristol College). We asked if they would consider retracting and disowning the group statement. They all declined. They also refused to add their names to growing calls for an independent inquiry.
Bristol City Council’s ‘Women’s Commission’ recently led a campaign called ‘Bristol, a zero-tolerance city’ which encouraged bystanders to ‘report violence against women, and raise awareness of gender-based violence through staff training’. We showed Chloe’s statement to several members including Vice-Chair Anna Smith, who is also CEO of women’s charity ‘One25’. Shockingly, Anna Smith declined to condemn the Police, and refused to include ‘One25’ in a list of organisations calling for an independent inquiry.
We showed Chloe’s statement to a serving Police officer in the Avon & Somerset Police. This is his reply:
”I can honestly say, in over 30 years service I have never witnessed such violence and brutality as this week. The total lack of professionalism and disregard for rules and procedure is astounding. Chloe’s statement is sickening to read. I am amazed she isn’t seriously injured. Their actions were deplorable. I watched the footage from that night. I saw a Police officer punch a woman in the face without any provocation. He was twice her size and strength. There is no justification in the way she was hit. Just mindless thuggery.
I watched the footage of a man taking repeated blows to the head. Even as he lay on the ground dazed, the officer continued to reign down blows of his riot shield. That is what would be classed as inappropriate use of the shield. He was out of control.
It sounds hard to believe right now, but there are some good people in the Police. Our job is extremely difficult at the best of times. We rely on the consent of the public. It’s not just a phrase, our job would be impossible without it. What makes me angry, is the fact that in the 80’s, the Police had a very toxic relationship with some parts, and some communities in this city. Since then we have worked bloody hard to repair that relationship and gain the trust and good will of those communities. Now it seems all that hard work has gone down the drain in the space of 7 days. I think there needs to be a proper inquiry, and Superintendent Mark Runacres needs to go.
The Police officers responsible for violent conduct should be sacked and prosecuted for assault. Some serving officers are a danger to the public. They should not have been recruited in the first place. Senior Police at the A&S are well aware of this”. [Reply ends]
Cleo Lake – Candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner, led calls for an independent inquiry into Police conduct. Via social media she said: ”I advocate the need for an urgent meeting & dialogue between Police and protestors to find a way forward if possible, in addition to the independent inquiry into the latest Bristol Protest. We must absolutely condemn the level of unnecessary Police violence witnessed in our city. We must have policing by consent. To all those peaceful protesters battered, I’m sorry this has happened to you. It is not, and will never be ok”. A link to Cleo Lake and Sandy Hore-Ruthven’s official statement is below.
Bristol Lib Dems defended the right to peaceful protest, and called for an inquiry into how the policing was handled. Their statement reads: ”We have seen violence from a minority of protestors. However, the response by Police officers was disproportionate and excessive, which is also unacceptable”. This is an excerpt. Link to full statement below.
A group of 16 Labour council candidates published an open letter saying: ”We are deeply concerned about the videos circulating on social media which appear to show police using excessive force against protestors. Of particular concern are the reports of multiple journalists being intimidated and in some cases assaulted by the police. We condemn all violence. We absolutely condemn uses of excessive force. These incidents need to be fully, independently investigated and those responsible held to account”. This is an excerpt. Link to full statement below.
Bristol Women’s Voice have added their name to calls for an independent inquiry, saying in a statement: ”BWV are deeply concerned by the images of violence at the protests over the last week and horrified by the experiences of aggression we have heard about from women who have contacted us directly.
We condemn all violence – this is never the way – and we support the call for an independent inquiry into police behaviour”.
Discrimination and prejudice experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities has been called ‘the last acceptable form of racism’. Possibly the most sinister part of the ‘Police Crackdown Bill’ empowers the Police to confiscate GRT homes at the mere suspicion of future wrong doing. If GRT families are suddenly made homeless, the state has a legal obligation to remove their children and place them into care. People who remember ‘Dale Farm’ know it is not simply a case of buying some land and setting up camp. England has some of the strictest planning laws in the world. With GRT people unlikely to satisfy Local Authority criteria to get a Council house – they could be in for a long wait for housing and the return of their children.
Cleo Lake and Sandy Hore-Ruthven’s official statement:
We note that Bristol’s brand new Anglican bishop, the Very Reverend Vivienne “Basterd” Faull and deceased (2006) Irish Catholic priest Monsignor Denis Faul have almost the same name.
Father Faul was well known for his POLITICAL PROTEST-BREAKING activities in the H Blocks (Maze Prison, Northern Ireland), to which the British colonial state had given him unfettered access for that very purpose.
South of the border, the very same good priest also campaigned tirelessly AGAINST such basic human rights such as contraception, divorce and abortion. Are these two Faullish clerics by any chance related?
A big warm BRISTOLIAN welcome to Vivienne “Basterd” Faull, former Dean of York Cathedral, who has been appointed BISHOP OF BRISTOL. This will be a big deal for local diversity enthusiasts who will point out that Vivienne is the first woman appointed to the role and will then demand that us plebs wet our pants with vibrant joy at this latest exciting victory for equality.
But how diverse is Ms Faull? Educated at exclusive THE QUEEN’S SCHOOL, Chester, an all-girls independent day school, she then went on to further study at the exclusive ST HILDA’S COLLEGE, Oxford. So there’s a good chance that Ms Faull is even more of a snooty elitist than her tosspot predecessor, Edward Colston cheerleader, Mike “THE MERCENARY” Hill.
Hill, at least, managed to attend a state grammar school before poncing off to Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge to become an ESTABLISHMENT LACKEY and mouthpiece for the wealthiest men in Bristol. Who will ever forget his noisy public support for slave trader Edward Colston from the pulpit of Bristol Cathedral?
Attention will now, no doubt, turn to Ms Faull’s attitude to Colston and his wealthy supporters club, the SOCIETY OF MERCHANT VENTURERS here in Bristol. Like her predecessor, will she front PRIVATE services generously funded by the Venturers at our local cathedral to celebrate Colston for schoolchildren?
Or will she opt for a different and more inclusive approach in her effort at moral leadership in the city? Don’t hold your breath.
Headteacher Alistair “Snooty” Perry from COLSTON GIRLS SCHOOL recently created a media storm after sending a letter to parents suggesting that pupils had been “approached by strangers in a forthright manner.
He went on to say that his school would be “reviewing our policies for student movement around the local area, including Year 11 leaving the school at lunchtime” after a protest at the annual ‘celebrations’ for slave-trader EDWARD COLSTON on 7 November at BRISTOL CATHEDRAL.
Since then the national and local media – led by the idle Guardian scribbler STEVEN MORRIS who appeared to phone in some South West News Service copy to head office – have spun the story with claims that:
‘Protesters target girls’ and ‘accost’ them in the street (The Times)
‘Schoolgirls are being warned about wearing their uniforms in public’ (The Daily Mail, The Sun)
‘Campaigners have also mounted demonstrations outside the school’ (Nazi Post)
All are far from the truth and there’s been no response from Colston School who began the whole affair with a ridiculous scaremongering letter to parents suggesting that their children were in danger.
The protestors have pointed out in a statement that the leafleting outside the Cathedral was in response to last year’s ‘celebrations’ of slave-trader Colston. When the BISHOP OF BRISTOL claimed that Colston had ‘lived a life of significance’ [and there] ‘may be still some SPECULATION on some of the circumstances around his business roots right here’.
Speculation? The educational leaflets given out by protestors simply told the history of Colston after BISHOP BONKERS had failed to tell the whole truth to school children forced to attend the ‘celebration’ the previous year.
Here is the statement from the protestors:
PROTEST OUTSIDE BRISTOL CATHEDRAL AT COLSTON COMMEMORATIONS INSIDE THE CATHEDRAL
Several newspapers published articles on 17 November about children from a Colston school in Bristol, being accosted. This may relate to events 10 days earlier, where there was a public protest outside Bristol Cathedral on 7 November, aimed at the Colston commemorations going on inside the cathedral.
We refute strongly that children were accosted on 7 November. We believe the school have overreacted to events of 7 November 2015 by unduly alarming parents and children and being economical with the truth. Inside the Cathedral, whilst preparations were being undertaken to mark Colston’s Founder’s Day attended by Colston girls school, we were protesting outside.
At the time of my arrival there were 6 of us. Our protest entailed distributing leaflets headed: ‘WHY WE ARE PROTESTING OUTSIDE TODAY’ that explained our presence, one of us holding a lighted candle. Our presence and activities were always in a visible public space with staff present.
Shortly, another 6 joined us. Among us: a retired teacher, a security guard, a historian, a grandparent who had dropped off a child to the ceremony, a teacher, three artists, a mother with a toddler in a buggy and a former student of Colston Girls. We are representative of the Bristol population whom the children live among.
We believe the teachers only panicked because they did not have a risk assessment in place that anticipated protest. Had the staff that were present with the children read the leaflets (here), that they were so quick to take off the children, they would have realised, it was the Merchant Venturer’s commemoration of Charter day and the Bishop’s comments in the Cathedral in 2014 that brought us as individuals to protest outside the Cathedral.
We found students bright, attentive and curious. Many were entering the Cathedral with little understanding of who Colston was or indeed why they were there. Others were keen to learn more and asked for leaflets.
Education takes place everywhere. We were not outside any school or in the street harassing children. Our aim was to protest at a ceremony in a significant religious and spiritual place of worship, ‘celebrating’ a controversial historical figure without acknowledging his direct involvement in the propagation of slavery and his amassed wealth from slave trading activities.
Neither did the ceremony seek to honour the memory and suffering of Africans and others exploited by the slave trade, creating memorialisation dissent in the Bristol community. This is what we are seeking to publicly highlight and change.
Why is this controversial?
The spreading of panic and fear in children and parents through the media glosses over public dissent and smothers the truth.
We are open to meeting with the Colston’s School, the Bishop and the Cathedral for discussion on a way forward.
On Friday 7 November a group of Bristolian activists leafleted people and children entering the Colston Schools Commemoration Day at Bristol Cathedral.
This protest came about because of a discussion at a Black History month event in St Pauls a few days before. The two leaflets below were handed out. The first for pupils and the second one for adults.
They have proved more controversial and provoked more of a reaction than the protestors could possibly have imagined:
WHY WE ARE PROTESTING OUTSIDE TODAY
We are Bristol residents concerned about the Colston founder day/charter day ceremonies about to take place in the city’s cathedral today and next week, following the public of words spoken by the Bishop in last year’s ceremony. In 2014 he stated that Edward Colston had: ‘lived a life of significance’ [and there] ‘may be still some speculation on some of the circumstances around his business roots right here’
It is not speculation but fact that the bulk of the money Colston gave away ‘for charitable purposes’, which built two of your schools, was generated off the backs of African slaves working in sugar plantations. Is this charity?
The memory of Africans (mere commodities under slavery) forcibly removed from their West African homelands, branded, their names taken from them, working under the sun, the slave driver lash at their backs, should be remembered, whenever the name Colston is mentioned.
Colston used his money to court influence and power in the city andParliament. He lends money to the Bristol City Corporation (city council) one year and becomes a member of the society of the Merchant Venturers the next…..
Ceremonies held in a cathedral, private or otherwise, presided over by the Bishop of Bristol, with hundreds of Bristol children in attendance, where the Bishop chooses to speculate over this fact and not give dignity to the memory of African ancestors who were dehumanised, are perverse.
We are using our presence to provide balance in education. Use the central library next door and the internet to find out the truth about:
Edward Colston and other Bristol slave traders
The Merchant Venturers
The slave and sugar trade in Bristol
Slave rebellions in America and the Caribbean
The movement for the abolition of slavery
Talk to your parents and teachers at school
COLSTON AND SLAVERY STILL OBSCURED?
At last year’s Merchant Venturers Charter Day service at the cathedral the Bishop of Bristol, stated that Edward Colston had:
‘lived a life of significance’ [and there] ‘may be still some speculation on some of the circumstances around his business roots right here’
The Bishop of Bristol’s clumsy attempt to rewrite history, effectively claiming that Colston’s involvement in the business of the slave trade was ‘speculation’ is unsurprising. A similar kind of air brushing occurred during a BBC televised debate in 2007 (the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade) when a spokesperson for the Merchant Venturers, claimed that his organisation had not traded in slave-produced commodities! This produced a mixture of laughter and howls of derision from the assembled historians in the studio audience.
This is nothing new. Colston’s extensive political and financial involvement in promoting slavery and the trade in human cargo has been obscured by the Merchant Venturers and their devotees for centuries. It took until the 1920s before his dealings in the ‘vile trade’ first began to be exposed. The problem for the Merchant Venturers and their ilk is simply this: if you set up one of your beneficent members as the ‘father of Bristol’, bang up statues1 and name streets and buildings after him; then the truth becomes politically inconvenient.
So what are the myths and what is the truth about Edward Colston?
Colston was held up in the Victorian period as an example of ‘a self-made man’. This was far from true. Privately educated Colston was born into a wealthy merchant family in Bristol who were already embedded in the Merchant Venturers by the time he was born in 1636.
In 1680 the profit-chasing Colston followed a number of his family into the Royal African Company (RAC), the premier slaving organisation in the British Empire. During the heyday of the RAC from 1672 to 1698 the organisation had a complete monopoly over the trade in human cargo from West Africa. Colston rose rapidly to the board of the company in this period becoming its deputy governor in 1689.
Between 1672 and 1689, Colston’s company transported around 100,000 enslaved Africans to plantations in the West Indies and America. This included women and children as young as six – each slave was branded with company’s initials, RAC, on their chest. To maximise profit, Colston’s ships divided their hulls into holds with little headroom, so they could transport as many slaves as possible. Unhygienic conditions, dehydration, dysentery and scurvy killed more than 20,000 slaves during the crossings. Their bodies were thrown overboard.
During this period Colston secretly accrued immense wealth which he then multiplied again by acting as a money lender. The bulk of this fortune, originally obtained from the exploitation of forced labour, became his passport to civic and political power in Bristol.
Colston is often portrayed as a Christ-like figure giving without prejudice to the ‘poor’ of Bristol. In fact he was a Christian fundamentalist who hated Catholics and non-conformists; in fact anyone who wasn’t part of the High Anglican church. For Colston, only the ‘right-kind’ of poor and orphans were due his charity and even then they had to be physically and ideologically disciplined into strict religious observance before they would be allowed to ‘kiss the benefactors hand’.
Colston was an old-school Tory loyalist who believed in the divine right of kings, despised Whigs and fought tooth and nail against ‘dangerous’ ideas such as ‘democracy’ and ‘enfranchisement’.
History is full of profiteers, gangsters and exploiters who toss ill-gotten wealth from the high table downwards in order to appease their own egos or to gain civic pride and status. Colston fits neatly into a long line of British slavers, colonial warlords and drug dealers that profited from the misery of colonisation and forced labour, whilst building respectable identities through philanthropy in the ‘mother country’.
The question is: For how much longer are school children expected to commemorate Colston in the city’s cathedral whilst conveniently disregarding the memory of enslaved Africans whose lives were brutalised and cheapened by the trade in human cargo? The Bishop of Bristol needs to inform school children of the truth, to restore humanity dignity to the memory of those whose lives were commodified. After all it is he that presides over these commemorations. The ball is in his court…….