If toppling Edward Colston was the price to pay for bringing forward change that should have happened years and even decades ago, then a bit of damage to some old brass was worth it

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The death of George Floyd has galvanised something that few saw coming. Nothing will overcome the tragedy of the 8 minutes 46 seconds it took for a police officer to kill him. The legacy of that violence and his death will, though, be long-lasting.

And for those who still think that toppling Edward Colston from his plinth in Bristol was wrong, look at the already significant consequences of that as well: the attitude towards the legacy of slave trading is changing for good in this, and other countries. That is overdue.

You can see why those on the right are so angry about all this. And why they hate protest so much. And even why they are so desperate to characterise those ordinary people with wholly legitimate, and completely justified concerns as 'left-wing extremists', 'thugs' and 'criminals'.

People only protest when they are really angry: it takes a lot to tip people over to going onto the streets.

When they do in significant numbers it is almost invariably because what concerns them really matters.

In this case, it is absolutely fundamental to the wellbeing of large parts of our society.

But the status quo is happy as things are. Life has suited them very well. And what protest does is seriously disrupt the trajectory of what they think to be their normality, which they would rather take for granted. And which the protestors want to seriously disrupt. Of course the right will fight back.

I never condone violence. I usually condemn criminal damage. I think peaceful protest is usually more powerful than anything involving violence or damage, and most protestors always know that. But if toppling Edward Colston was the price to pay for bringing forward change that should have happened years and even decades ago, then a bit of damage to some old brass was worth it on this occasion. That damage was far outweighed by the change that his toppling will unleash.

A wise government would recognise that.

We do not have a wise government.

I think there will be many more protests as yet.


NB: On a related theme the Tax Justice Network has a very good blog post on many tax haven and other aspects of this issue here.