On 1 October, David Miller was fired by the University of Bristol for his controversial statements about Israel. The reason for terminating his employment, the university said, was that ‘Professor Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff.’ The behaviour in question consisted of words: contentious words with which many would disagree, but words nonetheless, words not directed against any specific individual and not conforming to any conventional definition of harassment, though respected colleagues have argued otherwise.
The first demonstration against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill took place in Bristol on 21 March. It has been followed by demos in cities from Brighton to Manchester, and further protests in Bristol. Over the Easter weekend there was a carnival atmosphere, with dancing on College Green, festive drums, and flowers around an impromptu memorial for Sarah Everard.
Less than a week ago, many of Bristol’s institutions bore Colston’s name. The performing arts centre Colston Hall was established on the site of Colston’s School in 1867. Colston Tower, an office block, was built in 1973, on Colston Avenue, just opposite the statue. ‘It was not until one night in 1998,’ Adam Hochschild writes in Bury the Chains, ‘that someone scrawled on its base’ the words ‘slave trader’. This was the first in a series of artistic engagements with the Colston statue that have mixed parody, pathos and anti-colonial resistance in remarkably creative ways.