Banksy T-Shirt Supporting Defendants Draws a Crowd

Artist puts $33 project on sale before trial over toppling of slave trader's statue
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 11, 2021 2:10 PM CST
Crowds Buy Into Banksy Project Supporting Statue Defendants
Customers in Bristol on Saturday display T-shirts designed by street artist Banksy, being sold to support four people facing trial on criminal damage charges involving the destruction of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.   (Jacob King/PA via AP)

Hundreds of people lined up Saturday in the English city of Bristol to get the latest work by elusive street artist Banksy—a T-shirt created to help four defendants charged over the toppling of a local statue of a slave trader. The gray shirt features the word Bristol above the empty plinth on which the statue of 17th-century slave merchant Edward Colston long stood, with a rope hanging from it and debris scattered around. Anti-racism demonstrators pulled down the statue and and dumped it in Bristol harbor in June 2020 amid global protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Four people have been charged with criminal damage over the statue’s felling and are going on trial next week. "I've made some souvenir shirts to mark the occasion," Banksy said on social media Friday. "Available from various outlets in the city from tomorrow. All proceeds to the defendants so they can go for a pint." Banksy said the T-shirts cost $33 and are limited to one per customer. Banksy's identity has never been confirmed, but he began his career spray-painting walls and bridges in Bristol, a port city in southwest England.

Colston made a fortune transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas on Bristol-based ships. He was a major Bristol benefactor, with streets and institutions named for him—some of which have been renamed during the debate about historical commemoration. City authorities fished the Colston statue out of the harbor and say it will be placed in a museum, along with placards from the Black Lives Matter demonstration. A statue of a BLM protester, Jen Reid, went up in its place, but the city removed it 24 hours later, saying it wasn't authorized. Still, her statue "kept the conversation going," Reid told Bristol Live in October.

(Read more Banksy stories.)

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