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While he condemned the use of violence, the Labour MP said he supported protesters across the country over the death of George Floyd. Mr Lammy told ITV Good Morning Britain that he hopes the “good and the bad” of the history of British colonialism will now be taught in schools and made part of the school curriculum. The Labour MP also supported protesters who toppled the bronze memorial to slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it into the harbour in Bristol on Sunday, as he branded the statue “shameful”.
He said: “I don’t condone violence and criminal acts, I have seen to many riots in my own constituency up close in my lifetime, and I’ve just seen too many burnt buildings and burnt cars and people who have lost everything to condone violence.
“But I do absolutely support protest. In the incident of the Colston statue, this is a man who transported over 80,000 African men, women and children across the Atlantic from their homes in Africa.
“And over 19,000 of them died and were thrown overboard.
“And it’s shameful, shameful that we’re actually discussing whether he should have a statue.
“Statues represent a beloved icon, and people have been calling for that statue to come down in Bristol for many years and it should have come down in a democratic way.”
Avon and Somerset Police said they had launched an investigation and were seeking to identify those involved with the removal of the statue.
Home Secretary Priti Patel called toppling the memorial “utterly disgraceful”.
“I think that is utterly disgraceful and that speaks to the acts of public disorder that actually have now become a distraction from the cause in which people are actually protesting about and trying to empathise and sympathise,” she said.
In a statement to the BBC, the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said it was “important to listen to those who found the statue to represent an affront to humanity”.
Mr Rees said he felt no “sense of loss” after the city’s statue to slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down during racial equality protests.
The elected Labour mayor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As an elected politician, obviously I cannot condone the damage and I am very concerned about the implications of a mass gathering on the possibility of a second COVID wave.
“But I am of Jamaican heritage and I cannot pretend that I have any real sense of loss for the statue and I cannot pretend it was anything other than a personal affront to me to have it in the middle of Bristol, the city in which I grew up.”
Asked whether he wanted to see those involved with removing the statue charged, Mr Rees added: “That is up to the criminal justice system.
“I don’t really intervene in criminal matters like that – that’s not for me to go and be a cheerleader to the police in any criminal investigations.”
Mr Rees warned that it would take more than the removal of a controversial statue to tackle racism that was “stitched into the system”.
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The chairman of the Police Federation, which represents all officers in England and Wales, has criticised Avon and Somerset Police for its decision not to intervene in the protest in Bristol.
John Apter told BBC Breakfast: “To have no police presence there I think sent quite a negative message.
“I understand there has been a lot of controversy about this statue for many years – so the question is why didn’t those in the local authority consider taking it down long before rather than waiting for these actions?”
He continued: “I am a police officer so I don’t support this lawlessness we saw where this statue was ripped down and rolled down the street and pushed into the river because that is not how we do things.
“I understand the anger but not to have a police presence there was something – I have been a police officer for 27 years – that was a decision I have not seen taken before.”
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