Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has praised the protesters who toppled a statue of former slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into Bristol harbour, while also condemning the government for their handling of the coronavirus crisis and claiming Britain deserves “better leaders”.
Hamilton has been actively vocal in his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, having revealed his own personal experiences of racism, calling out his own sport for their lack of action in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in the United States, and calling on his followers to help spread the message for racial equality.
The 35-year-old Briton posted a series of messages on his Instagram story on Monday highlighting Sunday’s events in Bristol, where a protest resulted in the bronze statue of former MP Colston being pulled down and tossed into the harbour.
Colston was a merchant and member of the Royal African Company during the 17th and 18th Century, and was responsible for transporting thousands of African men, women and children to the Americas. He left a considerable wealth to charities in Bristol, though a large portion of it had been generated by the slavery trade.
Talks about taking down the statue have taken place in recent years, with an agreement to update the plaque on it failing to materialise, and on Sunday protesters took matters into their own hands by forcibly removing it, with police deciding that the matter did not require intervention.
Hamilton has praised those responsible for it, and in a further Instagram post, he has called on other statues and memorials of figures with similar history in the slave trade to be removed.
“Slave trader Edward Colston statue pulled down! Our country honoured a man who sold African slaves! All statues of racist men who made money from selling a human being should be torn down! Which one is next?,” Hamilton wrote.
“I challenge government officials worldwide to make these changes and implement the peaceful removal of these racist symbols.”
He added: “Watching the news today regarding the statue torn down yesterday! If those people hadn’t taken down that statue, honouring a racist slave trader, it would never have been removed.
“There’s talks of it going into a museum. That man’s statue should stay in the river just like the 20 thousand African souls who died on the journey here and thrown into the sea, with no burial or memorial. He stole them from their families, country and he must not be celebrated! It should be replaced with a memorial for all those he sold, all those that lost their lives!”
Hamilton posted for a third time to hit out at the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and criticised their decision to introduce quarantine measures from Monday, nearly three months after lockdown was first introduced.
Next week the government will introduce laws to enforce that facemasks are worn on public transport, but the delay in introducing these safety measures to protect people from spreading Covid-19 has been heavily criticised – with Hamilton joining those calls and claiming that the nation needs people who show better leadership in these times of crisis.
“I’m appalled at the UK government on how they have handled covid,” the six-time F1 world champion said.
“You should have closed the boarders (sic) months ago. How you can let people fly in from countries without being tested is baffling. You could have saved thousands of lives. We need better leaders.”